Bye Bye Books

Texas bans record number of books from schools and public libraries


On February 2nd, 1922, James Joyce’s Ulysses was published. The centennial birthday of this controversial and groundbreaking novel should serve as a reminder of a distant time where experiential thought and marginalized voices were censored; however, we are still living in this time. Just like how Ulysses was banned for its “offensive” subject matter, dozens of books are currently banned in nearly 100 districts in Texas today.

It is widely accepted that books are essential for the youth since they allow them to expand their imaginations and language skills; however, the debate surrounding the type of books that teenagers should have access to has become increasingly controversial. Parents have swarmed board meetings, accusing schools and librarians of poisoning students’ minds with books that explore themes of race, gender, and sexuality. Some have concerns about the books that feature sexually explicit passages. Despite this, authors and free speech advocates deny that these books can be defined as pornography since the sexually explicit scenes are presented in the broader narratives and not for sexual stimulation. 

Books about black historical figures and the legacy of racism in America have also sparked rage within many conservative parents in Texas. Here at Notre Dame, books that focus on these topics are being taught in English classrooms everyday. Mrs. Nelson, head of the English department, feels that books shouldn’t be banned for any reason. She  says, “People will question why books about or by black people, for example, are being taught in schools with hardly any black students. And I say that that’s exactly the point. Children have to understand others’ experiences and where people are coming from. They have to hear other voices.”

With censorship growing stronger, queer students and students of color are losing a safe haven in which they could see themselves reflect on a page and feel less alone. These bans are depriving teenagers of a way to comfortably explore their identities while getting educated on real social issues. 

Concerns about book banning have spread outside of Texas and throughout the country, reaching the students here at Notre Dame. Lily Silverstein, president of the ND Book Club says, “If we’re banning these books about and by marginalized people, we’re showing a single minded point of view. Keeps children from understanding parts of themselves, just because their parents don’t want to teach them about different sexualities and experiences, and loving who you are.”

While many students are working to fight against these bans, it’s been difficult, considering how quickly they are put into motion: however, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop. Everyone’s voices deserve to be heard.