What’s the Deal With Book Challenges?

Since September 2021 there have been more than 230 book challenges. A book challenge is the “attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.” Public libraries and schools in the U.S. have seen an influx in campaigns demanding the removal of books that focus on the experiences of individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+, Black or BIPOC. In some cases these campaigns have resulted in intimidation tactics towards librarians and educators who take pride in informing others, especially the youth.

The American Library Association (ALA) released a statement in November 2021 opposing efforts to censor books.

We are committed to defending the constitutional rights of all individuals, of all ages, to use the resources and services of libraries.  We champion and defend the freedom to speak, the freedom to publish, and the freedom to read, as promised by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States.

American Library Association Executive Board – Nov. 2021

Many of the authors hit by book challenges particularly in schools find the issue is to be more political and less about readers truly feeling offended. Several Black and POC authors are being accused of teaching critical race theory, which refers to the legal framework examining racism in America, and has become a hot topic this past year. Many people feel that these newfound campaigns are pushing to remove the voices and experiences of individuals who are already marginalized. Representation is extremely important, yet there is an effort to erase the reflection of so many people.

Along with book challenges, authors of LGBTQIA+ and antiracist books are reportedly being “review bombed” online. According to Book Riot, review bombing is when a large group of people (or a small group of people with a lot of accounts) leave targeted negative reviews of a product online. Reviewers are giving books low ratings and leaving misleading comments in attempt to ward of potential buyers and impact ratings.

So now that you know the deal, what can you do?

An easy way to help fight against book challengers is to look over your book list and leave your own positive reviews on books that you’ve read (and enjoyed) that are under attack. This will help push negative reviews down. You can also visit the National Coalition Against Censorship to learn more about censorship and how to advocate for books. In most cases, those who are encouraging the removal of books are simply more vocal than those who do not.

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