The politics of banning books: What role should governments play? – Los Angeles Times
As a child, I had a very specific taste in novels.
I wanted to read historical fiction about Black girls and stories about challenging authority. I was also drawn to books that my mother forbade me to read.
I was banned from reading J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series because of the use of magic, and Judy Blume’s novel “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” because of its exploration of puberty.
As a fifth-grader, I devoured Blume’s book underneath my covers at night after my parents fell asleep. It took a few more years for me to muster the courage to dig into Harry Potter.
I recently learned that my mom preferred I learn about puberty from a more educational perspective. She did not want me to first engage with menstruation through stories about a preteen girl kissing boys and stuffing cotton balls in her bra.
“There’s no telling what you would have done with that book,” she told me.
She’s not wrong. At 10, I was so enamored with Blume’s book, I stuffed cotton balls in my training bra. (Kissing boys came much later.)
Parents have long been concerned about the books their kids read. And while some are satisfied with just regulating their households, others want to act more broadly — banning books from schools and libraries, ostensibly to protect all children.
When should kids be allowed to explore more mature themes? What role should governments play in approving, or banning, books?
Hello, friends. I’m Erin B. Logan, a reporter for the L.A. Times. Today, we are going to talk about the power of the written word.
Why are people banning books?
Censorship is not new, said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the director of the American Library Assn.’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, which closely tracks and catalogs books that are most frequently targeted for removal from library shelves.
Books that top the list often mirror social upheaval in American society.
In the ’80s and ’90s, a conservative “moral panic” led to books about magic and others about puberty and sexuality being banned, Caldwell-Stone said. In recent years, the ALA’s list of most frequently banned books has swelled with tomes exploring LGBTQ issues, racism, anti-racism and police brutality.
The protests following George Floyd’s murder in 2020 led to a wave of anti-racist training in corporate America, generating a conservative backlash that spread beyond the C-suite and into schools and libraries.