A group of books with a chain around them, with a large padlock in the middle.

2021 Saw Unimaginable Levels of Book Bans, But 2022 Was Worse

Conservatives are hard at work trying to keep people ignorant so that we won’t understand how horrible they are. The so-called “freedom party” is laser-focused on telling people what they can and cannot read. According to a scary new report from PEN America, book bans increased 33% in the 2022-2023 school year, compared to the year prior. It should come as no surprise that Florida, the home of “anti-woke” crusader Governor Ron DeSantis and the overbearing Moms for Liberty group, leads the country in book bans. To date, there have been over 6,000 bans. 

Recommended Videos

PEN America found that from July 2022 to June 2023, 48% of book bans involved themes of violence and physical abuse. In a close second, at 42%, were topics on health and well-being. Those are quite interesting topics to try and wrap your head around, as they seem like polar opposites. Also, 30% of banned books feature characters of color or involve themes of race, and 30% are LGBTQ-themed in some way. I wonder what the total number of books with racial and LGBT themes are, because these numbers seemed heavily skewed. I wonder why?

PEN’s Chief Executive Officer Suzanne Nossel gave a great summary of what the problems are with all of these bans. “Those who are bent on the suppression of stories and ideas are turning our schools into battlegrounds, compounding post-pandemic learning loss, driving teachers out of the classroom and denying the joy of reading to our kids,” said Nossel. “By depriving a rising generation of the freedom to read, these bans are eating away at the foundations of our democracy.” This is exactly the narrative that needs to be out there! Reading is supposed to be a form of expression as well as education. People can read books that are bad, uncomfortable, and alienating. Why try and literally forbid people from reading certain stories? 

Another intriguing point to this whole fiasco is that conservatives have used misleading rhetoric about pornography to try and ban certain kinds of books. It’s interesting that there are so many more stories about heterosexual characters, yet such a high rate of banned books are about LGBTQ characters. A manufactured link between hypersexuality, porn, and LGBTQ people is something the anti-woke crowd is weaponizing. According to the full report from PEN America, 87% percent of all book bans occurred in school districts with a nearby chapter or local affiliate of a national advocacy group that focuses on book banning. It’s apparent that these people are organized and that this is a strategic push, as opposed to organic activism.

Conservatives seeking to ban books are disingenuous and often push ridiculous narratives. One such case happened in Texas—again, no surprise there. A newly elected school board member, Morgan Calhoun, was upset about books in elementary schools supporting alternative sexual lifestyles. She was backed by a group called “Texans for Educational Freedom,” which I have to point out because these names are just absurd. Anyway, it turns out Calhoun was so bothered by a book called Itty-Bitty Kitty-Corn, which is about a pink kitten that wants to be a unicorn. How egregious!

In the story, a kitten character really wants to be a unicorn but other animals say that she cannot achieve that dream. When kitty meets a real unicorn, she is embraced and they become friends. This seems like a sweet little story about friendship and learning to love yourself. But Calhoun thought there was a deeper, secret message. My guess is she thought students would read this and relate it to trans people! The horror! Technically, kids and teenagers are already learning about heterosexuality and cisgender people. Every time they learn about a U.S. President and their wife, they are learning about those concepts. This has been so normalized that we do not think of it that way. We must teach about diversity and inclusion and allow people to read and develop their own thoughts. You can still read something and realize, hey, I do not like this.

At the end of the day, conservatives will continue to push this anti-freedom strategy while gaslighting people into thinking they are the real freedom fighters. We cannot let this happen.

(featured image: Getty Images)


The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more about our Affiliate Policy
related content
Read Article Utah Emulates ‘Fahrenheit 451’ With Statewide Book Bans and Calls for Book Burnings
A stack of books labeled "Prohibited Literature"
A stack of books labeled "Prohibited Literature"
A stack of books labeled "Prohibited Literature"
Read Article Conservatives Are Predictably Banning Books About Book Bans From Florida Schools
The cover of Ban This Book by Alan Gratz
The cover of Ban This Book by Alan Gratz
The cover of Ban This Book by Alan Gratz
Read Article Writing in Ursula K. Le Guin’s House Sounds Like a Dream, Right? That Dream Can Now Come True
Ursula K. Le Guin'sitting in a rocking chair and holding a book, black and white photograph.
Ursula K. Le Guin'sitting in a rocking chair and holding a book, black and white photograph.
Ursula K. Le Guin'sitting in a rocking chair and holding a book, black and white photograph.
Read Article Win a Signed Copy of ‘The Watchers’ From Dakota Fanning and Ishana Night Shyamalan
Dakota Fanning in 'The Watchers'
Dakota Fanning in 'The Watchers'
Dakota Fanning in 'The Watchers'
Read Article The New ‘Hunger Games’ Prequel Is Likely To Explore Haymitch’s Time in the Arena
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games
Related Content
Read Article Utah Emulates ‘Fahrenheit 451’ With Statewide Book Bans and Calls for Book Burnings
A stack of books labeled "Prohibited Literature"
Read Article Conservatives Are Predictably Banning Books About Book Bans From Florida Schools
The cover of Ban This Book by Alan Gratz
Read Article Writing in Ursula K. Le Guin’s House Sounds Like a Dream, Right? That Dream Can Now Come True
Ursula K. Le Guin'sitting in a rocking chair and holding a book, black and white photograph.
Read Article Win a Signed Copy of ‘The Watchers’ From Dakota Fanning and Ishana Night Shyamalan
Dakota Fanning in 'The Watchers'
Read Article The New ‘Hunger Games’ Prequel Is Likely To Explore Haymitch’s Time in the Arena
Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy in The Hunger Games