Author Reacts To His Book Being Banned In The US

George M. Johnson, a published author, is in the middle of a debate about appropriate reading material for children.

According to a Pen America study published on Monday, Johnson’s memoir, “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” which details his experience growing up as a Black queer man, is the second most banned book in the United States and has been removed from the shelves of at least 29 school districts. The schools have taken the collection of essays off shelves due to its sexually graphic content, which includes accounts of queer sex and sexual trauma.

Johnson told ABC News Live on Tuesday that while it has been “bittersweet” to see their tales attacked in this way, it is also magnifying many of their stories and allowing her to distribute the book to the teen readers who need it the most.

One thing for which I am grateful is that it is reaching the people who can benefit from reading it and heal from it.

Johnson is this year’s honorary chair of “Banned Books Week,” an annual event started in 1982 by the American Library Association that has gained notice over the past two years as hordes of books are challenged and removed off the shelves of public schools and libraries.

According to Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, “Banned Books Week is much about providing space and opportunity for local libraries to talk about censorship and to highlight the importance of celebrating the freedom to read,” as reported by ABC News.

Nearly 140 school districts in 32 states issued over 2,500 book bans during the 2021-22 school year, as documented in a new report by PEN America, a nonprofit advocacy organization fighting to improve freedom of speech through literature.

Most of the novels that have been questioned are said to have been authored by people of color or focus on the experiences of minorities or the LGBTQ+ community. The most restrictive states, such as Texas and Florida, have enacted 801 and 566 prohibitions in 22 and 21 districts, respectively.

After PEN America’s study came out, GLAAD, an LGBTQ media advocacy group, warned that “banning books is only one arm of a bigger, planned operation to target and harass LGBTQ children worldwide.”

The group GLAAD told ABC News that “everyone deserves to see themselves portrayed in books and other forms of media” and that “anti-LGBTQ school policies must halt” if they are aimed at LGBTQ students.

Rep. Matt Krause (R-TX), a prominent voice on this topic, told ABC News that book banning is not the point.

“As a father, it’s important to me that our schools provide resources that are suitable for students of all ages,” Krause explained.

Florida school board members and parents Tina Descovich and Tiffany Justice told ABC News they had concerns about their children’s virtual education experience during the COVID-19 outbreak after seeing some of the material their children were exposed to.

Descovich claims that they started Moms for Liberty in 2021, and that the organization has since expanded to hundreds of chapters across 40 states thanks to “organic” growth among like-minded parents.

After successfully fighting off school-mandated mask policies, the group is now at the forefront of efforts to have parents have greater say over the books their children are required to read.

Justice argued that “parents need to be a part of that discourse” when determining whether or not content is suitable for children of a given age.

According to ABC News, Summer Lopez, chief program officer of PEN America’s Free Expression Programs, conservative politicians and parent advocacy groups have unfairly targeted LGBTQ+ content by focusing on so-called “sexually explicit” content.

None of this, Lopez said, is meant to suggest that parents don’t have a part to play in their kids’ education.

“The trouble arises when you assume that your worries for your own child are equally applicable to the children of everyone,” she continued.

Johnson added that he wished there had been novels like “All Boys Aren’t Blue” when he was a kid because he didn’t feel like he was represented in literature. According to Johnson, “it is critically important that our curriculum begins to resemble the actual educational systems that we have.””Everyone should be able to be seen and represented in the books that they read in a manner that I wasn’t when I was a youngster,” he continued.

Lopez claims that there is a “chilling effect” associated with the growing national and governmental effort to limit what children can read, where worry of being singled out for criticism or bullying causes people to avoid discussing the topic altogether.

Lopez argued that the most dangerous limitations on free speech are the ones that society imposes on itself rather than the government.