Book Bans Are Really About Fear
More years ago than I really care to count, the children’s librarian in my little town in rural northwestern Connecticut, apparently tired of my endlessly renewing the same book over and over again, pressed a copy of “The White Mountains” by John Christopher into my eight-year-old hands.
Mrs. Bullock was her name. She was the mother of one of my schoolmates. She’d taken note of my reading habits, such as they were were, and decided to take matters into her own hands. If I liked the book I’d been endlessly renewing, she argued, I’d love this one.
She was right. I read every volume in Christopher’s pulpy series, which followed the adventures of young people rebelling against alien overlords’ bent on keeping a servile population under their collective thumb with futuristic tech that suppressed their individuality and free will.
It was the start of my lifelong love of books and libraries. And viewed through the prism of 40-odd years, it was an oddly prescient choice.
Students and their teachers in schools across the country — and now public libraries — are waging a brave fight against the king of organized book- banning campaigns that once only seemed the province of the worst kind of totalitarian governments — or dystopian science fiction.
As Pennsylvania Capital-Star Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa made astonishingly clear in a recent story, hundreds of books, across dozens of states, are being banned at alarming rates.
A majority of the bans we're seeing across the country have targeted books written by authors who are people of color, LGBTQ+, Black and indigenous. The books feature characters, and deal with themes, that reflect the experiences of marginalized communities, Figueroa reported.
And while those behind these campaigns hide themselves behind the mask of parental control, what I think they’re really concealing is fear: Fear of a country and world that’s changing around them. Fear of voices that were kept silent too long who are now speaking up and demanding their seat at the table of power. Perhaps most importantly, fear of the erosion of their own privilege.
Books are more than printed matter. They’re conduits to an endless universe of knowledge. And they are the greatest democratizer we’ve ever invented.
Take one down off the shelf, read it, and finish it, and it will nudge you to another, and another. Before long, you’re navigating the twists and turns of human experience, letting your own curiosity be your guide, allowing it to bring you to places you’ve never been, and to introduce you to people, places, and cultures you might never have met or experienced on your own.