Author of one of 2021’s most banned books says queer stories help young people heal and build bridges

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As conservatives across the country continue their fight to ban books from library shelves, the American Library Association (ALA), in conjunction with the Coalition for Banned Books Week, is currently hosting its annual Banned Books Week.

Held every September since 1982, Banned Books Week’s mission is to celebrate free access to information and fight censorship.

This year’s Banned Books Week falls amid unprecedented conservative attacks on LGBTQ books and books about race. According to the ALA, 2021 saw 1,597 book challenges or removals, with the majority of books featuring LGBTQ and black people.

One of the most contested books of 2021 was George M. Johnson’s memoir Not all boys are blue. The New York Times Bestseller chronicles Johnson’s experiences growing up black and queer in the United States.

Johnson – honorary chair of this year’s Banned Books Week and nominee for the LGBTQ Nation’s Hero of the Year award – said the attention for their book has been “bittersweet”.

After all, a lot of people who hadn’t heard of the book know about it now, they explained to ABC News.

“If there’s anything I’m grateful for, it’s getting into the hands of the people who need to read it to heal.”

Johnson – who said he has been the subject of several criminal complaints – also spoke about the importance of LGBTQ literature and history being taught in schools.

They drew attention to the fact that the number of young people who identify as LGBTQ continues to rise. In fact, a February Gallup poll found that a whopping 20.8% of Gen Z identify as LGBTQ.

“It is extremely important that our curriculum begins to reflect what our current school systems look like, so having LGBTQ literature [and] LGBTQ history lets students know that, 1. LGBTQ people have always existed, as we have been here since the dawn of time, and 2. It helps build empathy and bridges between heterosexual students and queer students who will all have to exist in the same space one day when they become adults.

Conservatives fighting to ban the books continue to claim that all LGBTQ content is “pornography”. Parents and politicians are petitioning school boards and proposing laws to dramatically limit the type of content kids can access. In some states, laws have been proposed that would criminalize librarians and other school personnel if they do not remove certain books from shelves.

Conservatives have argued that parents should have more control over what their children can access, even if books with similar heterosexual scenes don’t face the same scrutiny. In many cases, their fights were successful.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, told the AP recently. “It’s both the number of challenges and the types of challenges. Previously, a parent had heard of a certain book and had a problem with it. Now we see campaigns where organizations compile lists of books, without necessarily reading or even watching them. »

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