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New York Library makes censored books available

New York, New York, October 34, New York Public Library in New York City, New York October 23, 1981, photograph by Jim Steinfeld, Michael Oaks Archive

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In recent years, and especially since the Covid-19 pandemic has forced many schools to turn to distance learning, in the United States, there is a phenomenon that the population is increasingly observing and newspapers take hold: that of parents who are now able to do so. They notice better their children’s lessons and the school activities to which they devote themselves, they fear that the influence of certain books can be harmful and disturbing and therefore should be avoided. Yet, contrary to what one might think, what is on the horizon are neither dated branches of language or worldview, nor pamphlets that fail to explain the complexity of our times: we are talking rather of great literary works such as Amatissima of the Nobel Prize Toni Morrison, From Harper Lee’s Darkness Beyond the Hedge or the MAUS Art Spiegelman Award-winning graphic novel, as well as Margaret Atwood’s novels The Handmaid’s Tale and Testament.

In short, we are faced with books of strong social and cultural significance, which often question the status quo, have repercussions on the LGBTQIA+ community, or on racism or dictatorships. Because the episodes reported within them are often crude or violent, families fear that they can constitute an element of disruption in the teen’s education process, putting them in front of topics larger than themselves, and that they risk being plagiarized from a point of view – an ideological point of view at some point life in which they have not yet developed a critical spirit. This, at least, is the view of many parent associations that have recently proliferated in more than 36 US states, interviewing and signing petitions for their criminal complaints leading to fines for school librarians who still provide certain qualifications in the class, such as as well as a real ban For publications that are considered one of the most dangerous.

A stone lion guards the New York Public Library in New York City, October 1969, the library was formed in 1895 by merging the Lennox Library and Astor Library, using money inherited by New York Governor Samuel J. Tilden Image via Photograph Archive

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To date, there is talk of more than 800 attempts made between 2021 and 2022, which are often followed by heated media debate, and above all the risk that youngsters are intimidated if they still want to get texts that classmates don’t want. Understand it or not, with the resulting sharp increase in incidents of discrimination and intimidation among school desks, while the editorial news for children that can be brought to American classrooms without incurring unpleasant legal repercussions is dwindling. On the other hand, of course, constructive and supportive attempts at teaching have not failed thus far, in the name of the right to broaden one’s horizons and to explore the most controversial issues or events without prejudice, to allow new generations to develop. Conscious idea of ​​the dynamics that must be discouraged and which must be pursued within civil society.

One initiative particularly appreciated in this sense has been PEN America, an organization that has published various suggestions online aimed at students to discourage censorship and stimulate a more open dialogue between teachers and families, for which the New York Public Library has been selected to make most of the works at risk available free and in book edition. e-mail until the end of May, through the library application for users 13 years of age or older. Books for All, as the initiative was called, allows you to avoid booking queues and perform the action even remotely, allowing you to download a copy of Speak with just a few clicks. The Unspoken Words of Laurie Halse Anderson, for example, or J.D. Salinger’s Young Holden, Passing Through the King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender and Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, You by Jason Reynolds and Abram X. Kennedy.

“Knowledge is power,” Tony Marks, president of the New York Public Library, declared, “while ignorance is dangerous, and breeds hatred and division…public libraries are committed to combating it from its birth, and the simplest way is to make it.” Any perspective and any idea is within everyone’s reach.” A gimmick so much appreciated by the public, which has already prompted the Brooklyn Public Library to do the same, opening Project Books Unbanned to readers ages 13 to 21 — which can spread Soon to many other American institutions to help children not succumb to this conservative wave.

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