Anthony Fyden: ‘Book banning’ hyperbole demeans real censorship

A Banned Books Week display is at the Mott Haven branch of the New York Public Library in the Bronx borough of New York City on Saturday, October 7, 2023.

A Banned Books Week display is at the Mott Haven branch of the New York Public Library in the Bronx borough of New York City on Saturday, October 7, 2023. AP/TED SHAFFREY

Published: 02-15-2024 8:22 PM

Like a modern-day Paul Revere, columnist Bill Newman is sounding the alarm that libraries are “under attack.” [“Libraries under attack — Fight back,” Gazette, Jan. 13]. I’ve got good news. The actual number of recently banned books is precisely zero. You can buy the books, read them, check them out of libraries. The only question is whether they belong in schools. School libraries are not intended to hold every book ever written. Not all books are appropriate for children. If you agree with these statements, you too are a book banner.

School librarians are not shamans. We have a right to question them. Parents voice concerns about inappropriate material. That’s free speech, not book banning. In many cases, the complaints are valid (those scary “Moms for Liberty” have a point). “Book ban” hyperbole demeans real censorship. Libraries have been bombed, authors jailed and murdered. The Nazis made bonfires of the works of Jewish writers. In America, slaves were prevented not only from owning books but from learning to read at all. That’s book banning.

Yet, parents are demonized for suggesting that the creepy books they see at school lack educational value. And lawmakers want to further quash debate. We should reject these efforts and allow local school districts to resolve issues. The Gazette won't print the controversial images or passages from these books. And on his radio show, Newman won’t read aloud the questionable content he says is fine for school children. Why not? I think that speaks for itself.

Anthony Fyden

Hadley

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