Which Books Are Banned, Challenged in Washington?

Genevieve Belmaker and Shaun Goodwin / The News Tribune

According to experts who track book bans and challenges at PEN America and the American Library Association, an unprecedented wave of book bans is sweeping the United States.

In a preliminary report released Sept. 16, the ALA reports that through Aug. 31 there have been 681 attempts to ban or restrict library resources. During the same period, a whopping 1,651 individual titles were targeted.

Those numbers put America in for a record-breaking year of book challenges and bans. The information was released for Banned Books Week, which takes place September 18-24.

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An open-source book ban index from PEN America shows challenges and banned books by state through June 2022. Tracking them revealed that 874 authors, 198 illustrators and nine translators had their work on 1,145 titles targeted for ban .

The index also lists certain school districts and states, noting that the restrictions have impacted more than 2 million students’ access to information.

In response to the restrictions, the Brooklyn Public Library is offering a free e-card service to all students who apply through its Books Unbanned program. The card is for students aged 13 to 17 who are directly affected and are seeking access to banned books. Students in all 50 states are eligible.

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Washington state has had its share of book bans and challenges from individual school districts over the past two years. Areas facing recent challenges include the Kent School District, Central Kitsap School District and Walla Walla Public Schools.

Titles banned or contested in Washington state include All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, Jack of Hearts (and other parts) by LC Rosen, and If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo.

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All three titles are among the most challenged in America, especially in the last two years.

The Kent School District eventually reversed its decision to ban Jack of Hearts (and other parts).

In every region where book challenges are emerging, a nonprofit called Moms for Liberty is a major advocate for removing titles from shelves for review. The group currently has four active Washington state chapters in Snohomish, Kitsap, Benton and Whitman counties.

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