When do you think of censorship, what do you think of? Where do you think it takes place?
According to the American Library Association (ALA), 483 books were challenged or banned in the U.S. in 2018 alone, and most of the challenges and bans came from public libraries. And those are just the ones that were reported.
In the same report, the ALA noted that 82%-97% of book challenges or bans go unreported, leaving us in the dark about how many books are censored each year.
This situation isn’t just about To Kill a Mockingbird, which is often challenged for its use of the n-word and for making people uncomfortable. Three of K-State’s past common reads — The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins — have also all been banned for a variety of reasons. And with books that have LGBTQIA+ content more often than not appearing on the banned books list, Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram may well soon join the other KSBN common reads on the list.
Along with restricting access to information and stories, this form of censorship often silences already marginalized voices. Of the ten most challenged books of 2018, half were banned or challenged for addressing LGBTQIA+ content, and a trend that continues on from previous years. Books addressing racism within the United States, such as The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, are often banned because they “contain controversial issues.”
These are the very sort of issues that we need to be addressing and discussing openly, with our children and with our peers, instead of brushing it under the table. A 2016 Atlantic article about how banned books affect children says it best: “When we say ‘This book is inappropriate,’ we’re telling those children ‘your situation … your family … your life is inappropriate.”
This isn’t to say that book challenges and book bannings are going unchallenged. More and more groups are turning on the light on censorship. We Need Diverse Books is one such group, dedicated to bringing more diverse voices into the world of publishing, and the ALA hosts Banned Books week each September to promote awareness about censorship.
K-State’s English Department and Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society are also doing their part to raise awareness this week. On Monday September 23, Wednesday September 25, and Friday September 27, volunteers are tabling in the Student Union to promote awareness about banned books. Additionally, tune in to 91.9 KSDB to hear readings and discussions of banned books Monday-Thursday from 4:40-4:55 p.m. and Friday from 12:00-12:30 p.m.
Censorship keeps us in the dark. It stops us from exploring and learning, silences marginalized voices, and halts discussion on critical issues affecting us today. We hope that you will join us in standing up to censorship and the effects that it has ourselves and our communities.
— Molly James (BA ’20), President, Sigma Tau Delta, and Natalie Wolf (BA ’20), Vice-President and Treasurer, Sigma Tau Delta