While California, especially SoCal, is often lauded (and criticized) for its more progressive leanings, the region is not immune to the book-banning fervor and other challenges to free speech. Below are some local examples of censorship — and some ways people of all ages can get involved to address it.
Calls to censor
- Last year, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom received 1,269 demands to censor books in libraries in 2022, the highest number it has documented in 20 years. Most of these books are written by or about authors who are LBTQIA and BIPOC.
- The most banned books from last school year included “Gender Queer: a Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and “Flamer” by Mike Curato.
- In 2020, the Burbank Unified School District temporarily banned the teaching of books such as “Huckleberry Finn,” “Of Mice and Men” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” after some parents complained that the novels contain racial slurs. The ban led to an avalanche of outcries and more than 5,000 protest signatures.
- This June, some North Hollywood parents at Saticoy Elementary School protested a pride event, which included a reading of “The Great Big Book of Families.” Protestors burned a pride flag outside a transgender teacher’s classroom.
- Glendale Unified School District saw violent protests in June over LGBTQ curriculum material, leading to three arrests.
- Also in June: The Temecula Valley School Board rejected a textbook that included information about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician elected to public office in California. After Gov. Gavin Newsom threatened the school district with a $1.5 million fine for rejecting the state’s new social studies standards, the board reversed its decision.
- Protesters were removed from a library in Sherman Oaks during “Drag Queen Story Hour.”
Calls to freedom
- The annual Banned Books Week will take place Oct. 1-7, and this year’s theme is “Let Freedom Read.” The campaign promotes freedom of expression, freedom of access to information and the freedom to read. bannedbooksweek.org
- Comedian and TV host Joy Behar’s “Joy’s Banned Books Club” segment on “The View” highlights both kid-friendly and adult banned books.
- Pickle the Drag Queen hosts drag story time for children of all ages at the West Hollywood branch of the L.A. Public Library. weho.org/community
- The American Library Association (ALA) has a special website page centering censorship, including ways to support librarians, donate, seek legal assistance and more. ala.org
- The National Coalition Against Censorship promotes a book censorship action plan on its website: ncac.org/resource/book-censorship-toolkit
- Over at United Against Book Bans, you can add your name to the “Freedom to Read” statement, download the social media kit, learn how to organize peaceful protests and more: uniteagainstbookbans.org
- Teach kids about Tessa Keslo, who, in 1889, became the sixth city librarian in Los Angeles, transforming the public library into a true metropolitan system and fighting moralistic censorship along the way. lapl.org
- Visit the Let America Read website to take action with organizations such as The FReadom Fighters, a grassroots group of librarians providing support to librarians, teachers, students and community members. letamericaread.org