Banning books is not a new thing

For the month of September, the Charles Town Library is focusing a lens on banned books, the practice of banning books in the United States, and a bit about the history of the action. 

Patrons can browse a selection of books, which have faced bans, on our display wall, compare their list of read or “to-read” books against the most banned books of 2022, and, of course, browse our stacks for books that haven’t been banned during their next visit.

PEN America, a non-profit organization that tracks and fights book bans, reported the 2021-2022 school year featured an unprecedented wave of actions to outlaw titles.  That school year alone saw 2,532 individual instances of attempts to ban a book, numbering 1,648 different titles. 

“Any book worth banning is a book worth reading.”

– Isaac Asimov

According to the American Library Association, the top three books to face bans in 2022 were Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George Johnson, and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.  The governing bodies seeking to ban them asserted each of the books was sexually explicit.  Further, The Bluest Eye was deemed to be too focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Of the other top books facing bans, the vast majority featured LGBTQ characters.

Book bans are not new in the United States, as the practice dates back to European colonial times when Puritans sought to ban Thomas Morton’s book New English Canaan.  Morton’s book was very critical of Puritan religious practices.  The first book believed to face a national ban in the country was the 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, which was known for depicting slavery as brutal, sadistic, and evil.

Those seeking to outlaw literature received a powerful tool in the Comstock Act, which was passed by Congress in 1873.  Among other powers, it permitted written material to be banned if it contained any mention of sex.  Prominent works of literature, including The Canterbury Tales, The Decameron, and more faced outlaw thanks to the Comstock Act.

More recent bans have included seemingly innocuous children’s books like Captain Underpants and Bad Kitty’s Christmas, as well as canonical American literature including To Kill A Mockingbird, The Catcher in the Rye, and The Color Purple.  To learn more about book bans, visit the American Library Association at https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/ or PEN America at https://pen.org/issue/book-bans/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=ad_grant&utm_campaign=awareness&msclkid=66f32c9d00bf1d70d54d486a555ec23f


Leave a Reply