In 2023, book banning is not a new occurrence; neither is the idea of authors speaking out about it. Since before the boom of the digital age, where people discover the goings on in the news on a minute-by-minute basis, book banning has been a news-worthy topic. In fact, the first book banning took place in 1637 when Thomas Morton published his book New English Canaan, a book that shed an unfavorable spotlight on Puritan society and was banned by the Puritan government. Today, book bans are just as prevalent in many cities and states across the US. According to PEN America, in the 2022-2023 school year more than 3,000 book bans have affected more than 1500 books, with over 40 percent of these bans occurring in Florida alone.
“PEN America counted school book bans in the 2022-2023 school year, and found 3,362 book bans affecting 1,557 unique titles, with more than 40% of the bans occurring in Florida.”THE 11 MOST BANNED BOOKS OF THE 2022-2023 SCHOOL YEAR, PEN America
It’s no surprise to anyone that many authors, some placed on banned books lists, have spoken out against these bans. We at Bookstr are here for it. For this top ten list, we take a trip back through this year of author quotes speaking out against book banning.
1. Mad Honey Co-Author, Jodi Picoult
“Twenty of My Books Were Pulled Off the Shelf… That is Not a Hoax. That is a Ban.”
In March of this year, during an interview with ABC’s Gio Benitez, Picoult spoke about what she thinks is the driving force behind book bans, which doubled in 2022, with more than 1200 challenges. While she comments about a small but vocal group of people who seem to be the ones behind the bans, this part of her quote seems to lend greater weight to how outrageous book bans have since gotten in just two years.
2. Fairy Tale Author, Stephen King
“Find Out What They Don’t Want You to Read.”
In late January of this year, Stephen King took to his X (formerly Twitter) page to voice his stance on banned books with this rather colorful yet poignant tweet:
3. Speak Author, Laurie Halse Anderson
“What’s Really Inappropriate are Adults Who are Unwilling to Talk to Kids About the Realities of the World.”
In late November of this year, during an interview with PEN America’s Lisa Tolin, Anderson speaks about her assault as a child and why banning books like hers isn’t helpful to children.
4. Nic Black and the Remarkables Author, Angie Thomas
“Create a World Where We Don’t Have a Banned Books Panel.”
In early April of this year, Angie Thomas was a guest speaker at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Thomas spoke during the “Banned Books: Defending the Right to Read” panel. The panel, held at USC’s Newman Recital Hall, discussed stakes that potentially will affect librarians, writers, and students. Thomas further spoke on the idea that as a Black woman, many may not see her and her struggles outside of her books. To conclude her thoughts, Thomas ended with this quote:
5. We Are Not Broken Author, George M. Johnson
“We’re Reaching a Place Where There’s Certain Censorship… for Certain Artistic Expressions.”
In early March of this year, Johnson sat down with Time’s Janell Ross to talk about his memoir and the hurdles he’s faced as a queer black man. During the interview, Johnson opines about his thoughts on book bans, and who the book bans target the most.
6. Victory City Author, Salman Rushdie
“The Freedom to Publish… Is Also the Freedom to Read and… Write What You Want.”
In May of this year, Rushdie, still recovering from a vicious stabbing in August of 2022 that left him blind in one eye as he was set to give a lecture, accepted the Freedom to Publish award in a video message. During his speech, Salman Rushdie expressed his sentiments on book banning and the ability to be free to choose what to read.
7. Into the Light Author, Mark Oshiro
“Oh, I Will Give You Something to Ban.”
In late March of this year, Oshiro discussed his latest novel, Into the Light (2023), with Subjectify Media’s Karen Rought. When asked about his feelings of uncertainty and backlash, Oshiro says of his other works getting the book ban treatment and what it means for this novel to most likely receive the same treatment:
8. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret Author, Judy Blume
“I Know That We Can’t be Complacent.”
In June of this year, Blume delivered a rousing keynote message at the ALA Annual Conference. In her speech, she thanked librarians for standing up against banned books. She also spoke about a time when her book was removed from school bookshelves in the 70’s, that the 80’s seemed to signify a new age for books without the backlash and bans, and that the issue was laid to rest for good. Yet here we are, still enacting book bans at an alarming rate. But Blume says we can’t be complacent. Her words couldn’t be further from the truth.
9. This Book is Gay Author, Juno Dawson
“I Wanted to Give LGBTQ People Hope.”
In late March of this year, Dawson posted a short yet introspective video message to her Instagram page about the audience her book was meant for and why she penned the work almost a decade ago. She explains that LGBTQ young people need sex education that will lead to healthy relationships. She also briefly touches on the book bans happening in America and the U.K., specifically Ireland, while also uplifting librarians and educators for their defense of free speech.
10. The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country Author, Amanda Gorman
“There’s a Huge Loophole… We Expect If a Book Isn’t Burned… Or Thrown Away, That’s Not a Ban.”
In a video interview with CBS’s Gayle King, Gorman talks about her book being moved from the elementary school level to the middle school level section in a Florida school library due to the complaint of one parent. She also speaks about loopholes and the illusion of what book banning looks like, that access to books is what needs to be preserved.
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