The majority of banned books are disproportionally from diverse authors. The 2016 celebration of Banned Books Week (taking place Sept 25 - Oct. 1) will examine this dichotomy. The American Library Association (ALA) defines diversity as being “those who may experience language or literacy-related barriers; economic distress; cultural or social isolation; physical or attitudinal barriers; racism; discrimination on the basis of appearance, ethnicity, immigrant status, religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression; or barriers to equal education, employment, and housing”. Diverse authors represent the marginalized factions of our society and the voices of those who are not often represented in mainstream outlets.
This discrepancy, in regard to the banning of diverse books, is significant. The University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) and publisher Lee & Low have provided statistics from 1994 to 2012 that illustrate that while 37% of the U.S. population are people of color, only 10% of books published focus on multicultural content. In addition, ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, has determined that 52% of the books challenged, or banned, over the past decade are from titles that are considered diverse content. These statistics are troubling and create more questions than answers.
Why are diverse books more likely to be banned and who is advocating the banning of these titles? According to the ALA’s statistics, the reason most titles are banned is because of the outcry of parents. These parents surveyed point to offensive language, violence, sexual content and age appropriate material as reasons for their protest.
Because the definition of diversity stems from what is considered to be outside the norm it has frightened parents who want to protect their children from overexposure. Ideally, parents would want their children to be inquisitive and become independent thinkers. The banning and censorship of books stifles constructive dialogue and promotes division over understanding. Unfortunately, our society has characterized that which is different as being bad or off-putting.