It's Travis' Turn: The disconcerting trend of book banning
The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.
It's a movement that is, unfortunately, picking up speed across the country, both in school and community libraries.
The banning of specific books from these institutions is not a new development, but it is one that is gaining momentum. According to the American Library Association, the number of books being challenged is at an all-time high, with a total of 729 complaints against 1,527 different books in 2021.
By comparison, the usual number of challenges is around 300-500.
Each year the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom publishes a list of the most-challenged books. The list for 2021 is the following: Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson, Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, This Book is Gay by James Dawson and Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin.
Regardless of the reasoning behind the challenges (although it should be noted that most of these books involve minorities in some way, be they people of color or those in the LGBTIQA+ community) the end result is the same: A limit on the exchange of ideas.
That's what most bans come down to. "I don't like what this book says, so I don't want anyone else to read it, either."
You are perfectly free to dislike what a book — any book — says. But when you take it upon yourself to become the paradigm of taste and morality by which everybody else must be judged, I take issue.
Nobody is so important that they can dictate how another person chooses to spend their time.
If you don't like a book, don't read it. If you don't want your kids to read it, take steps to make sure that they don't, and tell them why. But don't try to be a parent to all the other kids in the world, and the adults, as well. It's a stance that reeks of entitlement and arrogance.
There are books I don't like, yet I would never take it upon myself to ensure that other people didn't have the chance to read them if they wanted. The fact that I dislike an idea does not mean it has no right to exist.
I often think of my grandfather in this situation. As far as I know, he was against abortion. Yet one day when I was driving him to the grocery store he noticed a group of people protesting outside of a Planned Parenthood location.
On seeing them, he rolled down his window and yelled, "Get a job! Freedom of choice!"
That's kind of how I feel about book banning. We all have a choice to make. Read the book or don't — make that choice for yourself, and yourself alone.
Remember, no idea is so dangerous that it shouldn't be discussed and debated. That's what learning is all about. When you begin to place limits on the kinds of ideas that are up for discussion, you're limiting yourself and the people around you. And that's a shame.
Sept. 18-24 is officially recognized as Banned Books Week. Why not challenge yourself to read something you know you'll disagree with? You might be surprised at what you learn.
“It’s Our Turn” is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.