What the List of Most Banned Books Says About Our Society’s Fears
by Sarah Begley
Censors are increasingly focusing on books that represent diverse points of view
For as long as humans have printed books, censors have argued over their content and tried to limit some books’ distribution. But the reasons for challenging literature change over time, and as Banned Book Week begins on Sept. 25, it’s clear that public discomfort with particular ideas has evolved rapidly even in the last 20 years.
When the American Library Association started keeping a database of challenged books in the early ’90s, the reasons cited were fairly straightforward, according to James LaRue, director of the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom. “‘Don’t like the language,’ or ‘There’s too much sex’—they’d tend to fall into those two categories,” he says. Some books are still challenged for those reasons—Fifty Shades of Grey is a common example. But there’s been a shift toward seeking to ban books “focused on issues of diversity—things that are by or about people of color, or LGBT, or disabilities, or religious and cultural minorities,” LaRue says. “It seems like that shift is very clear.”