Bans against book bans had begun with Illinois and California passing laws restricting the banning of books. On Monday, June 12, Governor Pritzker of Illinois signed a bill that made Illinois the first state to ban book bans and protect the freedom of libraries to obtain books without any limitations. Shortly after September 25, California became the second state to sign a bill refusing book bans.
Illinois’ Secretary of State, Alexi Giannoulis, was the first to initiate legislation against banned books because in her view the “concept of banning books contradicts the very essence of what our country stands for.” In agreement with Giannoulis, Governor Pritzker states that he is against the book bans because he wants young children to “become critical thinkers, exposed to ideas that they disagree with, proud of what our nation has overcome, and thoughtful about what comes next.” Both the governor and secretary of state in Illinois agree that banning books impedes freedom of speech– the first amendment in the United States Constitution. Governor Pritzker emphasized that many of the most recent books banned in the US are associated with content about people of color and the LGBTQ+ community; banning books censors the voices of minorities.
California’s recent legislation closely correlates with that of Illinois. State Superintendent of Public Instruction in California Tony Thurmond said, “Rather than limiting access to education and flat out banning books like other states, we are embracing and expanding opportunities for knowledge and education because that’s the California way.”
According to Pen America, an organization for writers’ freedom, at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, there were, “1,477 instances of individual books banned, affecting 874 unique titles, an increase of 28 percent compared to the prior six months, January – June 2022.” Most of these titles are banned on the state level in several Southern states, such as Texas and Florida.
In March of 2022, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the Curriculum Transparency Act, which requires schools to be transparent about what they teach kids. Under this act, parents can weigh in on whether particular material should or shouldn’t be taught in school at specific grade levels. This act led to the banning of books in the state of Florida, specifically in school classrooms and libraries. Senate President Wilton Simpson of Florida agreed, “The books our kids are reading in schools need proper vetting. Parents have a right, and a responsibility, to be involved in that process.” In March of 2023, DeSantis continued discussing book bans in Florida, stating that “pornographic and inappropriate materials have been snuck into our classrooms and libraries to sexualize our students and violate our state education standards.” Although DeSantis has not clarified which books include pornographic or inappropriate material, some of the books on Florida’s banned book list include discussions of sexual orientation and stories from victims of sexual assault. DeSantis was backed on his decision to ban these books by Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr., saying, “Education is about the pursuit of truth, not woke indoctrination.”
Americans are still torn on what material should be taught in schools and allowed on library shelves, but at UMass Lowell, English Professor and author Andre Dubus III is confident that he is “horrifically angry” about book bans in the US. It does not matter to Professor Dubus if he disagrees with a writer; he believes everyone should be able to express themselves freely under the First Amendment if they do so with “respect, reverence, curiosity and integrity.” He thinks the book bans are encouraged by “fear and hatred,” but in the end, “truth, life, and love prevail because love will always be stronger than hate.