Banned Books Week - 9/18 - 9/24/2022

It is Banned Books Week this week and while we have acknowledged it in past years, this year feels very different.   Perhaps it is due to the fact that it has hit very close to home with the Nampa School District and West Ada Book Bans. Books have always come under fire. Each year we look at the most banned books and put them on display to facilitate this conversation with our customers.  This year, the conversation has turned personal.  And when it gets personal, we see an opportunity for a call to action.  Conversations about banned books are vital, but so are follow ups.  

I just finished The Attack of the Black Rectangles by Amy Sarig King and it really struck me that we need everyone who feels strongly against censorship and book banning to speak up in some way.  This Middle Grade book is about a group of 6th graders who live in a town hemmed in by rules (no candy, no pizza delivery, no walking after dark, all houses must be painted white, and on and on) and find that those boundaries extend into the classroom for a reading project.  They extend so far even as to black out words that "someone" deemed offensive ("breasts") in a book that should be offensive for an entirely different thing (the Holocaust).  Consequently, Mac, Marci, and Denis and their classmates take on the establishment at their elementary school and the local school board.  Their maturity, bravery, and outspokenness rally the town to demand change.  The Attack of the Black Rectangles is inspiring and empowering for young people and provides a great opportunity for much needed conversations in this environment of misinformation and censorship.  It is a call to action, not just for the young but also for those who have become apathetic or are simply waiting for someone else to fix it.

So what can YOU do as a parent, community member, book lover? READ. RESIST. ACT!

  • Write or contact your local, state, or federal representatives about the rise in censorship.  In fact, we have letter writing stations in our stores and WE pay the postage.
  • Attend school and library board meetings!
  • Buy support, and read books by BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ creators.  A recent report by PEN America on the rise in books bans found that if the 1,145 books challenged in the last 9 months:
    • 467 (41%) included protagonists or prominent secondary characters who were people of color.
    • 247 (22%) directly address issues of race and racism.
    • 379 (33%) explicitly address LGBTQ+ themes or have protagonists or prominent secondary characters who are LGBTQ+.

Every reader deserves to see themselves in a book and everyone deserves to have their story told. Access to these books through school and public libraries is necessary for a democratic and free society.  If we limit those who get to participate in the flow of culture and narrow the perspectives that are deemed "acceptable", we negate whole segments of the population and discount the value that they bring to our entire story.  We lose the richness that makes humanity awe inspiring. This is wrong. And it is on us to fight for them!  It is on us to make sure those stories are told, those voices are heard, and our hearts, minds, and libraries remain free and open.