Local youth support banned book authors with library initiative
"Dear Angie Thomas, I first read 'The Hate You Give' during the pandemic and I really liked it. I read it again for my honors English class and was surprised to see it was getting banned. The book is a really powerful message about the lives of Black people in America and it is a shame, but I hope you don't stop writing."
This was just one of the many postcards sent by local youth who visited the Lake Oswego Public Library in September to authors whose books have been banned.
Every year, the Lake Oswego library and other branches across the country celebrate books that have been challenged or banned for Banned Books Week, which this year ran from Sept. 18-24. The theme of the 2022 event was "Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us." The week intends to highlight and advocate against the censorship of books and authors across the country.
Each September, the Lake Oswego children's library displays books with content that is being questioned. This year it added another element to show support to authors whose words are being challenged. The children's department collaborated with the American Library Association to prompt youth to send letters of support to authors and tell them how their books have impacted them.
"The idea was to send postcards to their favorite authors, many of whom have had their books challenged. They would say: 'I loved your book' or 'keep up the good work.' So, it was giving (the authors) positive feedback and letting them know that they are making a positive difference in a lot of people's lives," said Andrea Milano, youth and technical services manager at the library.
In a recent report, the American Library Association highlighted the growing surge of citizens challenging books for various reasons; most commonly, they challenge texts that feature sexually explicit content, offensive language or materials they consider "unsuited to any age group." Other reasons for book bans in 2021 included LGBTQIA+ content, promotion of sex education, anti-police agendas and critical race theory.
More than 2,500 books are currently banned in public schools and libraries across the U.S. Books are often challenged by parents and patrons, as well as school boards, according to the report. Schools and public libraries are commonly targeted as institutions that feature the books.
The library also posted a bulletin describing some reasons why materials are being challenged.
"The displays always engender conversation," Milano said. "One of the things that's so important is that people are really surprised to see the variety of books that have been banned, and why. (Everything) from picture books to graphic novels to the classics have been challenged."
One student named Lily wrote to the author and cartoonist Raina Telgemeier, who has written popular graphic novels like "Drama," which was banned from 729 schools and libraries in 2021, according to Devonport University Libraries.
"Drama" tells the story of Callie, a middle school student and theater-lover who works in her school's drama production crew. It was banned for its "LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against family values and morals."
"Dear Raina, I just wanted to let you know how I have always enjoyed your graphic novels. They are my favorite. I have read them since the third grade. I am in tenth grade now and just wanted to thank you," Lily wrote.
Other students wrote to Stephen Chbosky. His book "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" has been banned for its "sexual content and glorification of alcohol use and drugs." Another student wrote to John Green, author of "Looking for Alaska," and told him to keep writing.
The children's library has sent the postcards to the American Library Association, which will distribute them to the authors.
"A lot of the books that are being challenged these days are particularly about different lived experiences," Milano said. "It's so important for people who are living those different experiences to read about themselves in literature."
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