Today marks the last day of Banned Book Week here in the United States, a week dedicated to platforming the titles most challenged and banned in schools and communities. The American Library Association recently released their data on book bannings in 2022 and found that there were 2,571 unique titles challenged in the United States last year - a record high since they started compiling this data. Of the top 13 books most challenged in 2022, 8 of them were challenged for reasons relating to LGBTQ+ and/or Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) content. These titles include:
These are just a sampling of the books targeted most intensely in 2022. Preliminary data for 2023 (From January 1-August 31) is showing a large increase in book challenging or attempted censorship compared to 2022’s original preliminary data. 11 states have already had over 100 unique titles be challenged so far this year, with North Carolina being one of them. Supposed Crimes is based here in NC, and we would be remiss if we didn’t position ourselves in the larger conversation of book banning. The name “Supposed Crimes” comes from the idea that queerness was once (and still is in many places around the world) outlawed. As a publishing company where we are constantly putting out more and more unapologetically LGBTQ+ content, based in a state where books with similar content are being challenged, censored, or banned, the idea that our books are indeed “supposed crimes” is not far from the mark. And so by continuing to publish this content, by uplifting writers to speak out and write stories of underrepresented populations, and by supporting these books as readers, we are fighting against this epidemic of book censorship.
The censoring of these titles holds implications far more sinister than just removing books from libraries; it is removing access to representations of diversity that enhances a person’s world view. Whether this representation is the first time someone sees themself in a character, or the first time someone sees a character they don’t recognize from their own life, diversity in books is integral in breaking the homogeneous landscape those who censor books strive to enforce. Diverse books reflect a diverse world, and therefore break down ideas of a hierarchy wherein the cisgender, straight, white man resides on the top - a notion that frightens a book censor. As a society we are already witnessing the continued marginalization of minority groups, whether it be people of color, disabled folks, queer individuals, other groups pushed to the outskirts, and those who exist within the overlap of these identities. The censoring of these identities in books is further contributing to the marginalization of them in our society, which in turn contributes to the maintenance of the aforementioned harmful hierarchy.
The ALA has noted in their preliminary 2023 report that “a vast majority of challenges were to books written by or about a person of color or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.” 2023 has seen the proposal of hundreds of bills targeting the queer community; the ACLU is currently tracking the progress of over 500 bills across the country. Though not all of the bills will become law, the harm they cause the community is palpable. The impact of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric is seen in the banning of books, in which individuals and censorship groups feel as though the very existence of queer people is inappropriate or a danger to children and therefore needs to be hidden away. Fighting against this legislative push back into the closet is vital for our continued social and physical survival, and as individuals we can resist in a variety of ways. Voting (many states are holding elections this November, so be sure your voter registration is up to date!), protesting, speaking to representatives, and in the particular case of book banning, reading. Read books that are being threatened because by uplifting their stories and their authors, you are ensuring they are seen and heard.