Summary of “this season: banned books”
Watch the full panel discussion here. Visit these links for more resources around banned books:
- American Library Association
- Pen America
- Freedom to Read Foundation
- Brooklyn Public Library – read banned books for free!
- Bookshop.org – buy banned books & support local bookstores!
Welcome to the inaugural event of “this season,” a new program by March On Foundation (MOF) and Mae created to bring experts and the community together to discuss the most pressing issues of the season.
Our first season was Summer, and a hot button topic for much of Summer 2022 was banned books. As MOF Executive Director Esther Pang (she/her) stated in her opening remarks, we wanted “to explore how banned books are used suppress marginalized identities and the problematic consequences of perpetuating discriminatory power dynamics.”
Our debut episode “this season: banned books” was on July 14; our very first panelists were:
- Ansley Moon (she/they), the author of several works including How to Bury the Dead. Her upcoming work, tentatively titled Girl Country, explores themes like adoption and women’s rights in India through her own lived experience as an Asian American adoptee who was born in India and raised in Georgia.
- Shivi Mehta (she/her), a student organizer based in Georgia. Her work focuses on education justice, fighting for diversity, equity, and inclusion policies as well as the removal of discriminatory book bans in her school district.
According to the ALA, the overwhelming majority of banned materials in 2021 were books (82%), but media like film and exhibits were also included. Additionally, parents are the number one initiator of challenges, followed by patrons and boards/administrations. Only 1% of challenges were initiated by students. A newer study from PEN America found that 474 books were banned in classrooms across 15 districts from July1, 2021 to March 31, 2022.
Ansley gave an interactive presentation on the situation with banned books on a macro level, while Shivi described her recent advocacy campaign against book bans in Forsyth County schools in Georgia. This district became the only one in the state of Georgia with book bans when the school board bowed under pressure from parts of parents in their voter base.
Best organizing tactics in challenging book bans according to the panelists were:
- Organizing on a grassroots level.
- Reaching out and building a broad and diverse coalition of like-minded supporters of your cause.
- Assemble people of all ages and backgrounds.
- Keep up constant pressure on elected officials.
- Organize however you can whenever you can.
- Assume that the number of banned books is higher than reported and organize around that.
- Talking about banned books with others.
Reasons why people want to ban books that the panelists gave were:
- Internalized racism developed since childhood.
- Lack of anti-racist education.
- Fear of changes to established order that allow privilege.
- Influenced by pre-existing, intentionally discriminatory legislation.
The program concluded with both panelists sharing their favorite banned books! Shivi’s included All Boys Aren’t Blue and Out of Darkness; Ansley’s were Beyond the Gender Binary and any work by Octavia Butler or Toni Morrison.
- How a tiny Chinatown bookstore became a hub for authentic Asian American stories
- Oklahoma official calls to revoke teacher’s license for pushing Brooklyn library’s ‘banned books’
- Push to Remove Sexually Explicit Books Divides a Texas School District
- Reading While Incarcerated Saved Me. So Why Are Prisons Banning Books?
- Texas kids read prohibited books at ‘Banned Camp’