A call to ban books deemed ‘inappropriate’ by conservative parents has actually prompted sales to increase.
In Spotsylvania, Virginia USA, parents took to the county town hall meeting to discuss “objectionable” reading materials accessible by the kids at the local high school. After searching the terms “gay” and “heterosexual” at the school’s library system they found 172 mentions of ‘gay’, and only two of ‘heterosexual’, prompting outrage.
Any novels with sexual content, LGBTQ themes, or race issues were debated. Books with real-life themes, albeit deep and gritty ones, were decided to be inappropriate and therefore banned from high school libraries.
One of these banned books was 33 Snowfish- a 2003 book about addiction, poverty, and abuse, aimed at teenagers. Another book under fire was Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which was banned in one district for having themes on race that made some folk uncomfortable. Jerry Kid’s 2019 graphic novel New Kid was also under fire for its depiction of a child of colour struggling in his new school…
Once put under the spotlight by fearful parents, however, these books did not disappear. In fact, the sales increased and more kids than ever have began reading them.
The same thing happened when Dr Seuss’s out-dated picture books were decided to be out-dated in its themes or use of caricatures . There was a sudden backlash and the books became rare collectables.
As far as modern books aimed at teens go, banning them from school libraries does not deter the kids from reading them. In reality, just like announcing a teen may not any longer see her cigarette-smoking bad-boy boyfriend, they will always find a way to go against the adults’ wishes. When news is out that there is a *spicy* book the grown ups don’t want you to read is available, you can bet a teenager will find it, and share it. Sales of every ‘banned’ book increased, in paperback and as an ebook.
What is needed is free opinions and frank, constructive discussion. Not book banning. The themes these parents and politicians decide are not ‘appropriate’ should be discussed in the safe space of a classroom, without being overshadowed by parental and political pressure. Race, sexuality, class, gender, sex, and relationships, are all part of life and, if teenagers are to become critical thinkers with broad knowledge of the real world, they cannot be sheltered from it all.
After all, these things affect kids too. They should be able to read about them in private, think about them, debate them with their friends and classmates, and ask their parents and teachers without fear they are doing something wrong.