By Gary Lawless and Beth Leonard
Gulf of Maine Books, Brunswick
There is currently a wide movement across the United States by conservative politicians, religious leaders, school board members, and media voices to remove books from school curriculum, classroom discussion, school libraries, public libraries, and bookstores. This movement includes legislation to punish teachers and librarians, in some cases suggesting felony charges for teachers assigning books with which individual parents do not agree.
At least seven states are proposing “book ban” legislation, including a South Dakota bill which prohibits public schools from including materials which promote “a divisive concept.” Idaho lawmakers are considering legislation which would make it possible to criminally charge librarians for allowing minors to check out sexually explicit materials and “any other material harmful to minors”.
Who decides what is divisive?
Who decides what is harmful to minors?
Here in Maine, there have been recent attempts to remove titles – the York Middle School library for “It’s Perfectly Normal – changing bodies, growing up, sex, gender, and sexual health” and the Hampden school system for “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, and “Heather has two Mommies” by Leslea Newman.
The general targets seem to be “Critical Race Theory” which basically looks like anything critical of straight white males, and of course books dealing with LGBTQ subjects. And then there is the Holocaust. The hottest banned book right now is probably “Maus” – a graphic novel about the Holocaust, with mice representing the human characters. It is supposedly being banned for 8 curse words, as well as one panel which depicts a “naked” female mouse (not because it presents a very personal view of the Holocaust…)
“1984” remains the most banned book, with other favorites like “To Kill a Mockingbird”, and “Catcher in the Rye,” but then there are new titles, like “And Tango Makes Three” which apparently promotes unhealthy family values, as a story of two male penguins raising a young penguin together.
Here is a list, some of it sourced from the American Library Association, of the current top banned books:
Maus by Art Spiegelman
Anything by Toni Morrison, but especially “The Bluest Eye” and “Beloved”
The “Harry Potter” series
“Stamped” by Kendi and Reynolds
“George” by Alex Gino
“All American Boys” by Reynolds and Kiely
“Heather has two mommies” by Leslea Newman
“Something Happened in Our Town” by Celano, Collins, and Hazzard
“And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson
“Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe
“Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson
“Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie
“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee
“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck
“1984” and “Animal Farm” both by George Orwell
“LGBTQ Survival Guide” by Kelly Huegel
“Catcher in the Rye” J D by Salinger
“Slaughterhouse 5” by Kurt Vonnegut
“Her Body and Other Parties”
“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker
“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
“The Giver” by Lois Lowry
“Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel
“Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan
“This One Summer” by JillianTamaki
“Drama” by Raina Telgemeier
“Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred Taylor
“Beyond Magenta” by Susan Kuklin
“I Am Jazz” by Jessica Herthel
And of course, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain
There are more titles attacked, more bannings, more removals, more censorship, happening every day. It is a concerted effort to limit conversations about race, gender, sexuality, and history itself. There are reports of students creating “banned book clubs” and running “banned book libraries” out of lockers and backpacks. Concerned citizens are buying copies of these titles and donating them to school and community libraries. School boards are having battles about what ideas and information sources are presented to students. Churches are having public burnings of Harry Potter titles.
We are deeply troubled by these attempts to assault free speech, and to limit access to ideas and information. As a bookstore we will continue to carry these titles, and to recommend to our reading community that they not let these titles, these issues and ideas, disappear from the education and conversations of the community.