I’ve spent a couple of days looking at Florida’s list of banned books, and it is disproportionately authors of color. There are many with authors and references to LGBT+ issues and information, but diversity seems to be the “problem” for Florida’s governor, from banning books about Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente to calling the AP African-American course “contrary to Florida law” and states that it “significantly lacks educational value.”
There is a list of 176 books from one county alone. I’ve chosen a few to highlight the ridiculousness of this ban. I will say that some of the books on the list are not for all ages, but almost no book is. That is where parenting comes into play. I help my own kids choose books, and when I have a question (which I have had in the past) I speak to the teacher, and we sort it out. I try not to censor my kids, but I do if I need to base on age-appropriateness.
I will also say, in all fairness, that many of the books on the list will be returned to the school libraries after they are examined and approved. I wonder what is the point of having a professional educator and librarian who spend years becoming experts in their field only to have a parent, who has a bias against certain kinds of books make the decision for all the parents in the school system. It makes no sense. And yes, I will stand by my characterization of a biased parent. Look at some of these books (these are in no particular order, and you may google them for descriptions, but some are obvious).
- Wilma’s Way Home: The Life of Wilma Mankiller by Doreen Rappaport and Linda Kukuk
- Two Roads by Joseph Bruchac
- Time to Pray by Maha Addasi, Ned Gannon, and Nuha Albitar [If this book was about Christian prayer, do you think it would have been questioned?]
- Thank You, Jackie Robinson by Barbara Cohen & Richard Cuffari
- My Mother’s Sari by Sandhya Raot and Nina Sabnami
- Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan and R. Gregory Christie
- The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie de Paola
- Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin, Jr., John Archambault, and Ted Rand [These are the same authors of Here Are My Hands, and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, preschool aged books that I used when I taught early-childhood.]
- Dim Sum for Everyone by Grace Lin [What could this book be about?]
- Celia Cruz: Queen of Salsa by Veronica Chambers and Julie Maren [In 2011, she appeared on a US postage stamp]
- Brother Eagle, Sister Sky by Chief Seattle and Susan Jeffers [This is a book I used in early childhood programs often.]
- Barbed Wire Baseball: How One Man Brought Hope to the Japanese Internment Camps of WWII by Marissa Moss and Yuko Marissa Shimizu
- Black Frontiers: A History of African American Heroes in the Old West by Lillian Schlissel
The #1 banned book is George Orwell’s 1984. Also banned are The Dictionary, The Bible, and Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl.
Profiles of banned books from Carnegie Mellon can be found here.
Banned Books Week will be the week of October 1 through 7 in 2023. In 2015, according to the Banned Books Week website, nine out of ten books banned contained diverse content. What does that tell you?
If you are having trouble finding a banned book in your area, and you are between the ages of 13 and 21, you can go online to the Brooklyn Library and get their e-card that lets you take out books online, so you can read the books. Email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are a New York State resident and teenager, you can apply for BPL’s free e-card here.
Another place to get information on banned books (and other books) is the American Library Association. They are the oldest and largest library association in the world.
Read banned books. Read all books. Speak up against this authoritarianism. We are on the slippery slope.