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Unshelving the Truth: The Effects of Banning Books

Updated: Jan 24


blog title image: unshelving the truth: the effects of banning books. Image includes books on a shelf taped off with police tape and a hand reaching up to pull down the tape.

Books have always been a gateway to knowledge, exploration, and understanding. They offer us a window into different worlds, diverse perspectives, and a chance to challenge our beliefs and broaden our horizons. Unfortunately, they have also become a target for controversy and many attempts to silence their powerful impact. The history of book bannings, and even burnings, as a form of censorship spans centuries and has been employed for various purposes. It includes ancient practices, religious censorship, Enlightenment-era suppression of challenging ideas, the impact of regimes like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and ongoing modern challenges, particularly concerning issues like sexuality, race, and politics. Despite this history, advocates worldwide continue to fight for the preservation of diverse voices, ideas, and the freedom to read, emphasizing the importance of protecting freedom of expression. Those fighting for the freedom to choose what we read on our own do so because of the effects that limiting books can have on inclusivity and acceptance in future generations, the accurate representation of history, and the disproportionate impact on marginalized communities such as BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ individuals. First, let's discuss the effects of book bannings on a deeper level. Then we will discuss ways we can take a stand.

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The Detrimental Effects of Banning Books

  • Stifling Intellectual Growth

Book censorship significantly limits access to a wide range of ideas and perspectives, ultimately stifling natural curiosity and intellectual growth. When we prevent children and young adults from learning about challenging or controversial themes within literature, we inadvertently restrict their capacity to think critically and form their own opinions. One example is the banning of Harper Lee's iconic novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird." This literary classic addresses critical issues of racial injustice, empathy, and moral ambiguity. By banning it, we deny young readers the opportunity to engage with these complex topics and grapple with the moral dilemmas it presents, hindering their ability to develop a deeper understanding of the world and the capacity for empathy and critical thinking.

  • Hindering Acceptance and Inclusivity

Books serve as powerful catalysts for promoting understanding, empathy, and a broader perspective on the world. They allow readers to walk in the shoes of others, to see life from a different angle, and to understand the experiences of people from diverse cultures and backgrounds. However, when we choose to ban books that delve into these different cultures, identities, or experiences, we are effectively closing the door on a significant opportunity to foster acceptance and inclusivity within society.

Consider the ban on Maya Angelou's autobiography, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." This remarkable work offers a candid and unflinching portrayal of Angelou's experiences as an African American woman growing up in the segregated South. By banning this book, we rob readers, especially young people, of the chance to walk alongside her on her challenging journey towards self-discovery and resilience. Such bans deprive us of the opportunity to comprehend the deep-seated issues faced by marginalized groups, perpetuating discrimination and harmful stereotypes through ignorance. Embracing these narratives, rather than banning them, can be a stepping stone toward a more inclusive, understanding, and empathetic society.

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  • Distorting Historical Accuracy

The accurate representation of history is not just important; it is essential for our collective understanding of the past and, most importantly, for preventing the repetition of its darker chapters. Banning books that delve into uncomfortable aspects of history, such as slavery and racial inequalities, can have profound effects. A striking example of this is the banning of "The Color Purple" by Alice Walker, a work that addresses not only racial discrimination but also complex issues surrounding gender and sexuality. By censoring such a book, we not only hinder discussions on racial history but also stifle important dialogues about gender, sexual orientation, and the intersections of these identities. This censorship deprives us of comprehending the multifaceted forces that have shaped our world. As a result, we foster ignorance, allow injustices to persist, and lose a vital opportunity to learn from history's mistakes instead of repeating them. Accurate representation, no matter how uncomfortable, is essential.

  • Disproportionate Impact on Marginalized Communities

Marginalized communities, such as BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ individuals, are often the primary targets of book bans. Currently, there is a heavy focus on censoring LGBTQIA+ literature, including books like "Heather Has Two Mommies" by Lesléa Newman. By banning books that tell the stories of LGBTQIA+ individuals and their experiences, we not only perpetuate discrimination but also erase their voices and narratives from the broader societal discourse. This suppression silences the essential dialogues surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity, hindering progress towards a more inclusive and accepting society. In essence, it denies the validity of LGBTQIA+ identities and the crucial contributions of this community to the richness of our shared human experience.

How We Can Fight Back

Fighting back against book bannings is crucial in upholding the principles of freedom of expression, promoting inclusivity, and ensuring access to diverse ideas. Remember that fighting book bans is an ongoing effort and collective action is often more effective than individual efforts. By working together and making your stance known, you can help protect the diversity of thought and ideas that literature offers to society. Here are a few ways you can take action:


  • One of the first steps in combating book bans is to educate oneself and others about the issues at hand. Attend (or even host!) workshops, discussions, or community events that highlight the importance of free expression and the dangers of censorship. By raising awareness, you can garner support and empower others to stand against book banning.

  • Many organizations, such as the American Library Association (ALA) and the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC), actively work to combat book censorship. Join and support these advocacy groups that champion the freedom to read. They often provide resources, legal assistance, and campaigns that can make a significant impact.

  • Organize or participate in peaceful protests and demonstrations to make your stance against book bans known. By gathering in public spaces, you can attract media attention and create public pressure on institutions that are censoring literature. Ensure that these protests are conducted peacefully and respectfully.

  • Advocate for changes in library and school policies that address book banning issues. Attend local school board or library board meetings to express your concerns and propose revisions that promote inclusivity, diversity, and the freedom to read. Your voice can make a difference in shaping policy decisions.


My Personal Mission

I've shared my business in the past, Novel Designs Co., and how it's foundation is in literacy and education for children. Previously, books available through Novel Designs Co. were limited to specific publishers and age ranges, but we've recently made a pivot in our mission. NDC will soon be specialized to focus on making banned and challenged books accessible. We will be committed to preserving the right to read and the right to knowledge without the filter of someone else's beliefs.


Novel Designs Co. is embarking on a new journey to house a diverse collection of challenged and banned books for all ages, children through adults, that will offer readers a wide range of perspectives and experiences. In this collection, we will prioritize books by and about BIPOC and the LGBTQIA+ community to help bring their voices to the forefront. Via online spaces, we hope to create a community hub where readers can engage in open discussions and virtual workshops about censorship, books, and supporting our future's freedom to read.

Novel Designs Co. logo, link to the IndieGoGo Campaign for free reading.

This mission is still in it's infancy, but our plans and goals are initiated in a crowdfunding campaign being hosted on IndieGoGo. To make this online community for the banned and challenged a reality, we need your support. The funds from this campaign will allow me to secure the necessary resources for the inventory of titles that will be carried and lay the foundation on which the virtual community will be built. By sharing this campaign and cause and contributing to the campaign, you can help create a space where everyone can explore the world of literature without limitations. Visit our crowdfunding page and be part of the movement to preserve the freedom to read and together we can unshelve the

truth.



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