Book Banning

Book banning obstructs the right to read and publish freely and makes it harder for professional writers to earn a living.

The Authors Guild advocates for the rights of professional writers to create, publish, and earn a sustainable living as fiction and nonfiction writers, poets, translators, and journalists. Book banning, whether challenged by the right or the left, interferes with those rights, not only by suppressing free speech and freedom of expression but by making it harder for authors to sell copies of their work.

Book Bans Reach Record Highs

According to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, the number of books challenged in schools and public libraries in 2022 hit a record high. A record 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship in 2022, a 32 percent increase over the 1,858 unique titles targeted in 2021. This is in part because, while books were once challenged on an individual basis, there are now lists of books to be challenged compiled by national groups. 40 percent of the overall books challenged in 2022 were in cases involving 100 books or more.

Books are also being banned as a result of state laws. According to PEN America, there are currently nearly 100 pending bills that would restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how K-12 teachers can discuss racism and sexism. A number of these bills are modeled after Florida’s H.B. 1557, commonly known as the Don’t Say Gay Act. Four of them apply to private schools or colleges. Legislatures are even attempting to criminally penalize librarians for providing certain books to minors.

Both individual libraries and entire library systems are being put at risk as these bans escalate. In 2022, a Michigan town defunded its library for refusing to remove certain LGBTQ books. In Llano County, Texas, a number of books were accused of being “pornographic” and removed from the public library system; when seven Llano County residents sued, the court stated that a number of these books also dealt with “critical race theory” and racial themes. In response to the court’s order to restore the removed books to the library shelves while the litigation was pending, Llano County commissioners held a meeting to discuss closing the library. And in Missouri, the state House of Representatives recently voted to defund all of the state’s public libraries, apparently in reaction to litigation filed on behalf of the Missouri Association of School Librarians and the Missouri Library Association. The lawsuit seeks to declare unconstitutional a state bill that has resulted in more than 300 books, many of which include LGBTQ characters or racial justice themes, being banned from school libraries.

No matter one’s political beliefs, we should be able to come together to support free speech and a healthy public library system.

Fighting Back Against Book Bans

Recently, the Authors Guild, along with other free speech organizations and individuals, has been a plaintiff in litigations to strike down legislation in Arkansas and Texas that would unconstitutionally limit access to certain books based upon their subject matter or characters, as well as the ability of authors from underserved communities to get their voices heard by younger readers.  The enforcement of these laws has been preliminarily enjoined, but there are other pending bills that may become laws, and which also need to be guarded against.

The federal government, through the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, is also working to protect students from having their educations negatively impacted by book bans. For example, this could be when students feel like they can no longer use or benefit from school libraries because prohibitions against books that address (or even mention) characters and issues that students relate to make them feel unwelcome. The Department of Education will investigate complaints from anyone about book bans that create a hostile learning environment for students.

Click Here to Read Our Principle Against Book Banning as Voted on by the Authors Guild Council

Get Involved

Stop Book Bans Toolkit

The Authors Guild’s Stop Book Bans Toolkit provides templates and details on how to contact your local school board, write to your state lawmakers, or submit a letter to the editor to your local newspaper or radio station.

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Authors Guild Banned Books Club

The Authors Guild Banned Books Club is a free virtual book club held on the social reading app Fable. Each month, the Banned Books Club presents a different work of fiction or nonfiction recently barred in one or more U.S. school districts or states.

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Banned and Challenged Books

The American Library Association (ALA) has lists of frequently banned and challenged books as well as free infographics and statistics.

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Resources for Authors of Banned and Challenged Books

The National Coalition Against Censorship has a list of resources for authors dealing with attacks on their creative output as writers.

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