In the previous nine months, more than a thousand book titles have been banned from US classrooms and school libraries, the majority of which deal with racism and LGBTQ concerns, according to the authors’ organization PEN America, founded by conservative parents and officials.
The debut novel by Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, as well as a memoir by the actor and activist George Takei about being interned as a Japanese-American child in a California internment camp during WORLD War II (WWII), are among the prohibited books collected by PEN.
“Challenges to books, specifically books by non-white male authors are happening at the highest rates we’ve ever seen,” Jonathan Friedman, director of PEN America’s Free Expression Program and lead author of the report, said in a news release.
“What is happening in this country in terms of banning books in schools is unparalleled in its frequency, intensity, and success,” he said.
In recent months, conservative parents have spoken out against books they believe are sexually explicit or address racism in a way that makes white children feel horrible about themselves in school board meetings around the country.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing on book bans and academic censorship on Thursday in Congress. The American Library Association produced its own list of banned and challenged books earlier this week that nearly mirrored the PEN conclusions.
Rep. Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, urged conservatives and liberals equally to “learn to tolerate the speech you despise as well as the speech you agree with.”
“Nothing will be left if we cancel or delete anything that people find offensive,” he warned.
Raskin highlighted left-wing accusations that the Mark Twain classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn should be removed because it contains a racial slur, despite the fact that the book’s overarching subject is anti-racism and anti-slavery.
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez was removed from 11 school districts, while Morrison’s The Bluest Eye was withdrawn from 16 districts. Both books deal with racism and contain sexual themes.
Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe was taken down in 30 districts, according to the organization.
Non-fiction literature such as biographies for children of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Duke Ellington, and Nelson Mandela was also taken from stores and the school curriculum. A total of five poetry anthologies were also outlawed.
According to the report, political pressure was involved in four out of ten removals in eight school districts in Texas, South Carolina, and Georgia.