City Cast

Will US Ban Book Bans Like Illinois Did?

Sidney Madden
Sidney Madden
Posted on September 12
Banned books at Sandmeyer’s Bookstore in South Loop July 13

Banned books at Sandmeyer’s Bookstore in South Loop July 13. (Eileen T. Meslar / Tribune / Getty)

With Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias set to testify in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today about the state’s ban on book bans — the first in the country — we’re revisiting a conversation with Book Riot’s Kelly Jensen about how you can get involved.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is a book ban?

“A book ban or a challenge is when a book is taken off shelves or from classrooms and made unavailable to anybody who might wanna access them. There's also updating curriculum, something book banners have been using as argument for why they should be able to ban books. So a good example is we're seeing ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ no longer being taught. Instead, a book by a Black author about racial justice is being used. … And it's not that ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is no longer available — it is, often as recommended reading — but it isn't being pulled from [the school].”

Who are the people most hurt by book bans?

“The people who are most hurt and most challenged by these book bans are the very people these books are by and about: It is queer people, it is people of color, and it is particularly those who live in an environment that is not supportive of them.”

What are actions that can be taken to fight book bans?

“If you can show up to a [school or library board] meeting, show up to a meeting. Bring a friend or two and make it a social event because that is what the people who are banning books are doing. Plan to show up and speak. If you can't go in person, write to school board members. They might not respond, but that doesn't mean that they don't hear you.”

The Chicago-based American Library Association’s Banned Books Week is Oct. 1–7.

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