Censorship in American schools and libraries is on the rise as more institutions attempt to ban books tackling racial and sexual issues, as well as those written by minorities, according to the anti-censorship group Kids’ Right to Read Project.
In a report by the Guardian, the KRRP stated it has dealt with 49 separate cases of book bannings across 29 states this year, up more than 50 percent compared to the previous year. November alone found the group, part of the National Coalition Against Censorship, investigating three times the typical number of book bannings in the United States.
“Whether or not patterns like this are the result of co-ordination between would-be censors across the country is impossible to say,” said Acacia O'Connor to the Guardian. “But there are moments, when a half-dozen or so challenges regarding race or LGBT content hit within a couple weeks, where you just have to ask ‘what is going on out there?’”
While most of the complaints filed have been done so by parents or local school districts, there have also been cases where state and local officials have gotten involved. According to the group, some of the books targeted include “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, and “The House of the Spirits,” by Isabel Allende.
“It has been a sprint since the beginning of the school year,” O’Connor added. “We would settle one issue and wake up the next morning to find out another book was on the chopping block.”
If there was one bright spot in the situation, it’s that despite the increased reports of book bannings, there are also increased reports of books being reinstated once the KRRP became involved. The organization defeated the proposed banning of "The Diary of a young girl" by Anne Frank in Northville, Michigan. In December, it successfully reinstated Rudolfo Anaya's “Bless Me, Ultima” in schools in Driggs, Idaho, as well as “The House of the Spirits” in classrooms in Boone, North Carolina.
According to the American Library Association, the reason most books are banned is because of complaints concerning “sexually explicit” content, drug references, and crude language.
Earlier this year, schools in Alamogordo, New Mexico banned Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” after only one parent complained, though the school board ultimately permitted classrooms to reintroduce the book.
“I’m just glad that organisations like the Kids’ Right to Read Project exist, and that so many of these challenges have successful outcomes – it’s obvious that without them, the people who do not want their children, or other people’s, exposed to ideas, would be much more successful at making books vanish from the shelves,” Gaiman said in a statement on the incident.