County library practices first amendment, displays banned literature

Tulare County Library continues to celebrate Banned Book Week after hundreds of books containing LGBTQIA+ content and social agendas were banned this year

TULARE COUNTY – “Censored” has been plastered over the titles of countless books in schools and libraries, but the Tulare County Library continues to encourage readers to read banned and challenged literature through a curated list. 

The Tulare County Board of Supervisors plans to declare the week of Sept. 18 through Sept. 24 – this week – “Banned Book Week,” which the Tulare County Library is celebrating by showcasing banned or challenged books that have been censored by libraries for covering controversial topics, vulgarity or sexuality. The theme of this year’s Banned Book Week is “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.”

“A lot of books that have gotten on this [ban] list have been real eye openers for me, [they helped] me make good decisions in life, to learn more about people I didn’t know, to learn more about history that may not have been pleasant, but to me, that’s one of the reasons we need to read these,” County librarian Darla Wegener said.

Books can be banned in a variety of ways, but many times it’s by the hands of leaders or through petitions by groups or parents. This year, the Tulare County Library will be displaying ten books, five of which were banned or challenged for LGBTQIA+ content. These books include: Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson and Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin. Each were banned, with Dawson’s work being relocated and restricted for providing sex education along side LGBTQIA+ content. The other five books were banned or challenged for sexually explicit content or social agendas, such as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. 

“The word indoctrination is being used a lot by some people when it comes to giving access to books. But reading a book does not indoctrinate you, it takes more than that,” Wegener said. “Reading the book gives you information and suggestions and opens your world. Two or three different people could have a completely different reaction to the same book.”

The American Library Association began the Banned Book Week in 1982 to challenge censorship and recognize freedom of speech. The list of banned books grows each year, and even affects children’s books, according to Wegener. This is part of a larger story between LGBTQIA+ and historical racism content reaching libraries, with multiple states banning this content such as Texas and Virginia, according to the Human Rights Campaign. 

It’s not just sexuality and social agendas that are banning targets, it’s also religious content such as the Bible. PEN America estimates that there were 1,586 individual books banned within nine months, with 41% of those bans being directly tied to elected officials. 

In February, amid a variety of book bans that speak about sexuality and race, the Human Rights Campaign made a similar list of banned book titles for people to read. Many of these books will be featured in the Tulare County Libraries banned book list as well.

“I have plenty of books that I will never read again or didn’t finish because I didn’t like them, but I don’t think I should keep them from other people,” Wegener said.

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