American Library Association (ALA), “Forty Years of Banned Books Week” by Priscilla Wu, “My Life in Book Banning” by Jonathan Evison, Banned Books Week 2022, Poets & Writers Magazine September/October 2022, Top 10 Most Challenged Books Lists 2001-2021
Until recently, I have paid little attention to parents protesting about books they would like to remove from the shelves of their school and public libraries, alleging moral corruption of their children. Since I don’t enjoy the privilege of seeing my novels on the shelves of libraries, I had no cause for concern. Then, the article “Forty Years of Banned Books Week” by Priscilla Wu, published in the September/October 2022 issue of the Poets & Writers Magazine, grabbed my attention.
It turns out that book challenges for the eight months into 2022 is set to exceed last year’s alarming record, according to a press release on September 16 from the American Library Association (ALA) ahead of Banned Books Week (September 18-24, 2022). ALA documented 681 attempts to ban or restrict library books and targeted 1,651 unique book titles. Compare these numbers to the year 2021 when 729 attempts of censorship targeted 1,597 books, then the highest number of attempted book bans since ALA began compiling these lists more than 20 years ago.
“The unprecedented number of challenges we’re seeing already this year reflects coordinated, national efforts to silence marginalized or historically underrepresented voices and deprive all of us—young people, in particular—of the chance to explore a world beyond the confines of personal experience,” said ALA President Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada.
You can find lists of the “Top 10 Most Challenged Books 2001-2021” on the ALA website.
In a post-truth world, it’s not surprising that there are those who seek to smother marginalized voices. What’s frightening is that some of these truth-silencers are prepared to use violence to achieve their goals. Jonathan Evison, author of Lawn Boy: A Novel, one of last year’s most challenged books, has had to confront a campaign of threats, cyber-attacks, and doxing. He shares his experience in the article “My Life in Book Banning.” He has been labeled as a pedophile for “promoting” sex between fourth graders. It mattered not that his adult novel was never intended for elementary or middle-grade readers.
As often happens with banned books, Lawn Boy was catapulted into the spotlight. “The boost in sales from this controversy has resulted in three additional printings of the novel since September 2021,” notes Evison in his article. “In fact, the book’s publisher, Algonquin, has had trouble keeping up with demand.”
I would not like to experience what Evison has gone through. Yet, it’s a risk I must take as a storyteller who seeks to spotlight the ills of society that contort our lives. Now, I’ve got to get more pro-active in placing my books in public libraries interested in Caribbean stories. Are my self-published novels worthy of inclusion on their bookshelves? I won’t know until I try.