By Fiona Hernandez
The beginning of 2022 has been filled with many different changes and challenges, one being the ongoing issue of whether or not we should ban books. We are in an era where we have come to recognize that people come in all shapes, sizes, genders, and races. Despite this, book banning continues to be an issue.
Books have been banned since before Nazi Germany. According to the American Library Association, books such as “The Catcher in The Rye”, “The Great Gatsby”, and “To Kill A Mockingbird”, which have become American literature’s greatest works, were initially banned from schools and other institutions.
Books nowadays touch upon the subjects of race, LGBTQ+ issues, and the political atmosphere. These books are being banned simply because they may be seen as “unprofessional” or too “permissive” for people to read nowadays.
According to an article by Advocate titled “18 LGBTQ+ Books That Are Banned In Schools in 2022,” book banning is making a comeback because “lawmakers and parents across the country are demanding that school districts remove books from their libraries…”— books that deal overwhelmingly with race, gender, and sexuality.
Dr. Laura Tetrault, a professor in the University at Albany English Department, believes that it is important that students continue to read banned books.
“It's very dangerous, because in order to create a more just society, the population needs to be educated about histories of racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia,” Tetrault said. “Banning books is an example of people in power attempting to suppress information and disrupt activism.”
“It's vital for students to learn about race, gender, and sexuality, in addition to disability, ethnicity, and other intersecting categories of identity and societal power,” Tetreault said. “There are also proven strategies for teaching students at any grade level about these topics in a way that is developmentally appropriate, and the earlier students can start learning about these things, the more aware they will be as they grow up.”
Dr. Tetrault strongly believes that these issues are important to our society. “I think we all have a chance to reckon with the injustices built into American society from the start and to advocate for changes, with the goal of many more people being able to have livable lives…When reading and conversation about these issues is suppressed, that just contributes to continuing injustices.”
Amanda Lowe, the Outreach and Marketing librarian at the University Library also believes that it is important that people have the freedom to read. “The fact that folks are even trying to dictate what others can read is a bit absurd,” she said. “We continue to talk about banned books in order to make everyone more aware that it is an ongoing issue. A lot of the books that folks challenge or ban simply center around ideas, beliefs, or even facts that they don't agree with.”
Books are a way for people to share their stories and experiences, and by extension, a way for readers to learn and relate to others. If books continue to be banned, we will never be able to know and understand the world. Books are needed to form connections, and by banning books, we are cutting young readers off from each other.