Updated May 10, 2022
The Authors Guild advocates for the rights of professional writers to create, publish, and earn a sustainable living as fiction and nonfiction writers, poets, translators, and journalists. Book banning, whether challenged by the right or the left, interferes with those rights, not only by suppressing free speech and freedom of expression but by making it harder for authors to sell copies of their work.
According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, the number of school boards being asked in 2021 to ban certain books and concepts is unprecedented. In the past three months, school libraries in at least seven states have removed books challenged by community members. As of November 24, 29 states have introduced bills or taken other steps that would restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how K-12 teachers can discuss racism and sexism.Eight states—Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas—have already outlawed discussions of critical race theory not only at K-12 public schools but in some cases also at colleges and universities. These laws often include confusing and wide-sweeping restrictions on discussions of, and texts related to, race, gender, and sexuality in general. Indeed, of the 850 books Texas plans to ban in public schools, just eight percent center around race and racism, 14 percent focus on sex education, including reproductive rights, and a whopping 62 percent feature LBGTQ+ characters or discuss issues related to sexual orientation or gender identity.
Among the books most frequently targeted are Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye (1970), George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto (2020), Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer: A Memoir (2019), Jonathan Evison’s Lawn Boy (2018), and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006). Not one of these works references critical race theory or how legal policies institutionalize racism. This certainly raises questions about the key motivation behind these myriad book ban challenges.
How You Can Help
1. Write to your local school boards, representatives, and newspapers
Regardless of the reasons behind the huge rise in the number of school boards banning books, however, the National Coalition Against Censorship, of which the Authors Guild is a proud member, has asked for our help in combating this alarming trend. That’s why we are calling on all interested members to help us launch a national letter writing campaign by undertaking one or more of the following actions:
- Send an email to your town or city school board encouraging them to approach requests to ban books with caution and to recognize that the loud voices of the few do not necessarily speak for the many. (Download a sample document)
- Write a short op-ed and send it to your local newspaper outlining the dangers of censorship and encouraging those against book banning to let their school boards know. (Download a sample document)
- Send an email or letter to your state representative expressing concern about the growing number of states outlawing the teaching of “critical race theory,” as such laws inevitably undermine all discussions about racial and gender inequity, including book bans that disproportionately impacts BIPOC students and those students who may be struggling with their gender orientation and sexual identity. (Download a sample document)
Feel free to write something in your own words or you can simply download one of the sample templates and sign your name to it.
2. Join the Authors Guild Banned Books Club
Our Banned Books Club features a different work of fiction or nonfiction currently banned in one or more school districts in the United States every month. Each book’s author will lead the discussion—or if the author is deceased, a well-known writer who has a special affinity with the work—to help readers understand the story and find their own meaning in it. Interested readers can join and access the club at any time on the Fable social reading app.
3. Join the Authors Guild and ALA to #UniteAgainstBookBans
We are pleased to partner with the American Library Association on #UniteAgainstBookBans, a national grassroots campaign to engage the public in the fight against censorship. This non-partisan campaign leverages the reach of national organizations representing librarians; educators; parents; authors; publishers and distributors; champions for civil liberties, civil rights, and equality; and more.
Visit uniteagainstbookbans.org to learn how you can join the fight. Tag @AuthorsGuild on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and use the hashtag #UniteAgainstBookBans to let us know when you’ve taken action!