As myself and my colleagues have continued to cover, there’s been a revived Republican effort to ban (if not burn) books from appearing in both public school classrooms and public libraries. There are some great deep dives to be read about how conservative dollars are trickling down into these seemingly local school board-led efforts, but at the end of the day, people are falling for conservative hysteria. And while it would be great if we could just shrug our shoulders and let book bans fade into the past where they belong, many folks are (sadly) all too read to discriminate whenever they can.
We’ve seen elected officials threaten to withhold public library funding if they don’t take certain books off the shelves. We’ve seen public librarians threatened with misdemeanor charges over children’s book events. We’ve seen folks suggest that parents need to give consent in order for young people to get a hold of LGBTQ+ books. Books—especially free books, and in accessible spaces—are a lifeline for youth, but really, for all of us. With all of this in mind, let’s try a little banned book club here.
Some banned books are famous (or infamous, depending on who you ask), like Fahrenheit 451 and the Harry Potter series. I’d love to dive into newer titles by marginalized writers alive today and open space for people to share their honest thoughts—what worked in the book and what didn’t? What helped you grow or expand your perspective? What do you wish were different?
My ideal situation would be to give community members enough notice that we can all read (or listen) to the book ahead of time—perhaps with a few pointer questions to chew on—and then plan for a deep-dive on the book to publish on a particular day when everyone can “meet” up and discuss. I’m also hoping to interview authors and see if any would be available to appear in the comments.
What do you think? I know reading communities have long been successful here at Daily Kos, so I’d love to hear what insight folks have—things that worked or things that could perhaps be improved upon in a new attempt, etc. I’d also love to hear what people have to offer in terms of book suggestions and the frequency of the column. (I’ll be hanging out in the comments and taking notes on what people suggest!)
The first book in the series is likely to be All Boys Aren’t Blue by George Matthew Johnson. All Boys Aren’t Blue is a truly stunning, innovative collection of personal essays that explore race, queerness, masculinity, and structural racism experienced by the writer, with a bend toward young adult readers. Johnson writes about surviving childhood bullying, first sexual experiences, friendship, and familial relationships.
The book has a nice balance of personal experience with larger systemic issues, making it both interesting and educational for both allies and marginalized young adults. It’s also been pulled from more than a dozen school libraries already.
(As a friendly heads-up, George uses they/them pronouns.)