October 6, 2022

Underground book clubs form as teens rebel against establishment

Teenage book nerds have had enough and start banned book clubs with the support of bookstores, parents, and wordsmiths across the United States.

Today, more than 1,500 books, many of them LGBTQ and race-themed, have been banned from 86 schools in cities across 26 US states. The tactics and politics behind the blitz stem primarily from conservative or grassroots pressures to control the materials and influences that children can access.

The phenomenon is making headlines around the world, and with free speech organizations such as PEN America and Authors Banned, children have now taken the lead in the fight back.

Books on bestselling lists include some of the most famous and acclaimed literary tomes on recommended reading lists and bestsellers for bibliophiles around the world.

Kill a mockingbird (Harper Lee) and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain) have both attracted controversy in the past for their content; they are both on the list. Catcher in the rye, The purple color and farm animal were also banned from various schools in conservative cities and states. Even the first novel by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison The bluest eye is banned in St. Louis.

Teenage self-proclaimed “book nerds” have had enough and are starting banned book clubs with the support of bookstores, parents and wordsmiths across the country.

Joslyn Diffenbaugh, 14, with the encouragement of her mother, started the Teen Banned Book Club. They read banned titles and meet regularly to discuss them. Josyln read The hate you give and All American Boysboth of which deal with police brutality, saying “they were really eye-opening…they made you think”.

In Texas, books about gender dysmorphia, identity, and sexuality are on the banned list, and so far, pleas from students have fallen on deaf ears. Alyssa Hoy, 16, one of the co-founders of the Vandegrift High School Banned Book Club, says, “for intersex people…to take away that story is to take away their story.”

Two determined Missouri students have filed a lawsuit against their school district for removing eight books from school libraries. And based in Brooklyn Library, a group of New York City students called the Intellectual Freedom Teen Council meet weekly online, like military strategists, to organize national resistance to book bans and censorship.

Admirably, the power of numbers proved to be a powerful message in Pennsylvania, where students demonstrated daily outside their high school until administrators lifted bans on more than 300 books, films and articles, mostly from black and latino authors.

The resistance continues to mount, and the fight continues…