In light of Banned Books Week, the Lake Oswego Library Youth Department organized a letter-writing initiative.
“Dear Angie Thomas, I read ‘The Hate You Give’ for the first time during the pandemic and I really enjoyed it. I read it again for my specialist English course and was surprised to see that it was banned. The book is a really powerful message about black life in America and it’s a shame, but I hope you don’t stop writing.”
It was just one of many postcards sent by local young people who visited the Lake Oswego Public Library in September to authors whose books have been banned.
Each year, 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 September 18-24. The theme for Banned Books Week 2022 was “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us”. The week aims to shine a light on and advocate against the censorship of books and authors across the country.
Every September, the Lake Oswego Children’s Library posts books whose content is challenged, and they’ve also added another item to show their support for authors whose words are challenged. The Children’s Department has worked with the American Library Association to encourage young people to send letters of support to authors and tell them how their books have touched 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’. they make a positive difference in the lives of many people,” said Andrea Milano, head of youth and technical services at the library.
In a recent report, the American Library Association highlighted the growing number of citizens who challenge books for a variety of reasons; most often, they take issue with texts that feature sexually explicit content, offensive language, or materials that they consider “unsuitable for 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 from public schools and libraries across the United States. The books are often challenged by parents and customers, as well as school boards, according to the report. Schools and public libraries are usually targeted as institutes that present the books.
The library also issued a bulletin outlining some of the reasons why the documents are disputed.
“Screens always generate conversation,” Milano said. “One of the biggest things is that people are really surprised at the variety of books that have been banned, and why. (Everything from picture books to graphic novels to classics has been challenged.”
A student named Lily wrote to author and cartoonist Raina Telgemeier, who wrote 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 schooler and theater enthusiast who works on her school’s drama production team. It was banned for its “LGBTQIA+ content and for fear that it goes against family values and morals”.
“Dear Raina, I just wanted to let you know how much I’ve always enjoyed your graphic novels. They’re my favorites. I’ve been reading them since third grade. I’m in tenth grade now and just wanted to say thank you,” wrote writes Lily .A
Other students have written to Stephen Chbosky. Her book “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was banned for its “sexual content and the glorification of alcohol and drug use”. Another student wrote to John Green, author of “Looking for Alaska,” and told him to keep writing.
The Children’s Library 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 specifically about different lived experiences,” Milano said. “It’s so important for people going through these different experiences to read themselves in the literature.”
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