It’s 2021 and once again they’re banning books. What message does that send? – The Guardian
It’s becoming worryingly frequent for me to get emails from librarians telling me that one of my books has been “challenged”. Recently, two of my titles – This Book Is Gay and Understanding Gender – appeared on a very long list of books that the Texas lawmaker Matt Krause would like to see removed from schools. I’m in good company: Margaret Atwood, the young adult bestseller Adam Silvera, and the V for Vendetta author Alan Moore also feature, alongside Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jeffrey Eugenides and – for whatever reason – a book by James Patterson.
Book “banning” is nothing new. Few sights are more enduring, or chilling, than the photographs of Nazi youth raiding Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute of Sexology in 1933 and burning the books they found there. Book burning remains synonymous with censorship, dictatorship and autocracy. As a writer, I think it’s up to publishers to decide if they want their name associated with prejudice – even with authors and books I disagree with fundamentally on ideological grounds. But this isn’t indicative of some evenly split “culture war”. Krause only wants liberal, or inclusive, books banned.
When This Book Is Gay, a nonfiction handbook for LGBTQ+ teens, was first “challenged” – in Alaska in 2016 – everyone was very excited. “You’ve made it now!” people exclaimed, as the furore made headlines all over the US. “It’ll be great publicity.”
Even at the time, I was disheartened for the queer youth of Wasilla – Sarah Palin’s stomping ground. What sort of message would removing the title from libraries send out to those kids? That they’re shameful? That they’re sinful? They ought to be hidden from sight? I feared it would force them to the back of the closet.
I want to be very clear. My books – none of them – have “turned” young people into lesbians, gay men, bi people or trans folk. If books had that power, I would stand before you a very hungry caterpillar. I didn’t read a book with an out queer character until I read Poppy Z Brite’s Lost Souls when I was 17. Needless to say, I was already well on my way towards understanding my sexual and gender identity.
I wrote This Book Is Gay because, from my time working as a personal social and health education teacher, I knew there was a gap in the market. After the repeal of section 28, which forbade teachers from discussing LGBTQ+ lives, professionals were allowed to acknowledge …….