Censorship. In American schools, the book war is raging

Across the United States, parents, activists, school board members and lawmakers are calling for a growing number of books to be banned, much to the chagrin of teachers, booksellers and free speech advocates. .

In Wyoming, a district attorney considered charges against librarians who had books on their shelves like Sex Is a Funny Word [“Le sexe est un drôle de mot”] and This Book Is Gay [“Ce livre est gay”].

In Oklahoma, a bill has been introduced in the state senate to prohibit public school libraries from having books about sexual activity, sexual identity, or gender identity.

In Tennessee, the McMinn County School Board voted to scrap the graphic novel Maus (a Pulitzer Prize winner) of a ninth-grade program sequence on the Holocaust, because the book contains nudity and swearing.

Across the United States, parents, activists, school board members and lawmakers are calling for an unprecedented number of books to be banned.

An “unprecedented” number of reports

In the fall of 2021, the American Library Association indicated in a preliminary report that it had received the number “unpublished” of 330 reports. Each of these reports may contain a list of several works.

“It is quite amazing to see, here in the United States, the return of a trend of book bans – to see some filing criminal lawsuits against school librarians,” testifies Suzanne Nossel, director of the organization PEN America, which defends freedom of expression. Even if these desires have not, for the moment, succeeded.

These types of objections are nothing new in school boards, but their increased frequency isn’t the only thing that has changed, according to teachers, librarians and free speech advocates: the tactics used and the chosen channels have also changed.

Conservative groups in particular, who are very active on social media, take their protests to state legislatures, to the police and in election campaigns.

Growing politicization

“The subject has become politicized, that’s the difference with what we observed in the past”, says Britten Follett, director of content at Follett School Solutions, a leading provider of elementary and secondary textbooks. “This requires the adoption of laws, the positions taken by political figures. And ultimately it’s the librarians, teachers, or educators who get stuck in the middle of it all.” she adds.

The most frequently targeted books are particularly about race, gender or sexuality, such as Blue doesn’t suit all boysby George M. Johnson (Ed. De Saxus), lawnboy, by Jonathan Evison [“Le Jardinier”, inédit en français], Gender Queerby Maia Kobabe [“Fluide”, inédit en français] and The Bluest Eyeby Toni Morrison (Ed. 10/18).

Sometimes, certain works are at the heart of the debates


Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter

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Censorship. In American schools, the book war is raging