According to PEN America, 40% of book bans that occurred in the United States in the 2022-2023 school year occurred within the state of Florida. The right to read freely is under attack — particularly within schools —, and it is often women, people of color, and the queer community whose books are targeted first.
A Community Under Attack
The literary community and general public was outraged last week when Escambia County Schools in Florida reportedly removed 1600 books from their shelves — including dictionaries — due to complaints by certain teachers and parents. A lawsuit alleging that the county has violated First Amendment rights has been filed against the county by Penguin Random House, various authors, Pen America, and multiple parents of children in the Escambia County school system. The lawsuit has already been given permission to proceed by a Florida judge.
Despite the culture of book banning being on the rise in the sunshine state, Florida book shop owners are fighting back. The Daytona Beach News Journal reports that both Family Book Shop and Muse Book Shop in Deland, Florida are not only selling the banned books, but giving them their own bookshelf and highlighting the reasons why they have been banned by schools.
The Community Is Behind Them
We were getting a lot of folks in who were, one, didn’t know that some of these books were being banned or, you know, a lot of people will come in and say, ‘Oh my gosh, I read that in high school’. [they ask] ‘Why is it banned?’ This way, we’re helping people understand that these things are being taken away from the kids that are coming along now.Karen Johnson, owner of Family Book Shop, via The Daytona Beach News Journal
Johnson has shelved her banned book collection separately, with yellow caution tape mocking their banned state and sticky notes on each book highlighting the reason(s) for its ban.
Johnson says that the community has been grateful for access to the books, with many people surprised that certain books on the shelf have been banned. Educating these people as to what is going on with book bans and why certain books are being banned is the goal. Johnson says the people who have gone into her shop, whether conservative or liberal, have reacted positively to the books being displayed.
They Aren’t Alone
Muse Book Shop in Deland also features banned books, with a special shelf during Banned Book Week and the books otherwise scattered around the store throughout the rest of the year.
I think you should have access to all literal material. The list is a very long [list] of books that have been banned throughout history. … It would be impossible not to have any banned books, any books in your store that hadn’t at some point in history been banned.Janet Bollum, owner of Muse, via The Daytona Beach News Journal
Bollum is not alone in her opinion that the banning of books is a fruitless attempt by governments throughout history to bar citizens from literal material.
Books are knowledge. If you don’t have access, how are you going to learn about different cultures, different ideas? Maybe something new will come along that you didn’t think about. It makes you think differently, makes you see the world differently. Maybe it makes you understand that being more inclusive and understanding, that not everybody’s the same.Karen Johnson via The Dayton Beach News Journal
What are your views on the recent book bans? Do you think more book shops should take a stand to protect the next generations from political agendas that try to keep citizens from books? Let us know how you feel via social media! Reach out to Bookstr on X, Instagram, and Facebook!
Interested in reading more about the book bans occurring across the country? Check out this Bookstr article!
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