“The irony of banning Fahrenheit 451,” Netizens divided about Barnes and Noble displaying banned books

PEN America list of banned books in US

United States major bookseller Barnes and Noble’s Texas outlet assembled a stack of banned books that are worth reading. These books included Anne Frank’s Diary, Fahrenheit 451, Gender Queer: A Memoir, and more.

All of the recommended books have previously faced the scissors of various authorities for their social commentary, sexually progressive content, or political criticism.

Following a visit, Coalition Texas’s President / Director Sarah J Fields logged a complaint regarding the lack of warning around the display. She shared that the books feature sensitive content that may not be suitable for kids.

The display is also easily accessible which raised concerns among parents. However, many netizens criticized this complaint defending the banned books such as Fahrenheit 451 and Anne Frank’s Diary of A Young Girl in light of major books bans in United States.

Anne Frank’s Diary and Fahrenheit 451

Sarah J Fields, an elected Republican State delegate visited the Barnes and Noble outlet in Texas. She noticed a display of banned books in front of the bookstore. Upon further browsing she noticed a book titled Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, it is one of the most banned books across the United States.

The graphic memoir in the style of a comic talks about identity and LGBTQ+. However, it received major criticism for its sexually explicit nature and illustrations. Fields expressed her concerns through Twitter regarding the positioning of the display as it was easily accessible by children.

Netizens tweet about banned books Fahrenheit 451
Screenshot of Sarah Fields’ Tweet with censored book page (Image via Twitter)

She complained that the display should feature a sexual content warning and called it ‘irresponsible, dangerous, and gross.’ She also posted her concerns through her official Facebook which erupted in a debate regarding the ban on some books across the country.

Many netizens agreed with Fields’ complaint due to the graphic sexual content in Maia Kobabe’s book stating that Barnes and Noble could’ve been wiser about its choice of display. Meanwhile, many netizens quickly expressed their disagreement about the banned books.

The display also included Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch, Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl, and Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. Additionally, it included Adib Khorram’s Darius The Great Is Not Okay and Alan Gratz’s Ban This Book among others.

Netizens especially noted the irony of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 being part of the display as it depicts a dystopian society where any books found in possession of an individual are burned by the ‘fireman’.


Risen instances of book bans across the United States

Twitter users especially criticized the complaint of Sarah J Fields in light of recent bans on books across the United States. According to PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans, there were 2532 instances of book bans from July 2021 to June 2022 and it affected 1648 unique book titles.

The books that include subjects such as LGBTQ+, PoC, sexual content, and race & racism received major bans, apart from that some of the books featuring rights, activism, and religious marginalized groups were also banned.

As per the recent reports of Al Jazeera exploring the teachers’ and librarians’ fights against the risen numbers of bans, the news agency mention instances in 2022 that sparked controversy and resulted in many bans. Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1557 law banning classroom discussions of sexuality or gender from Kindergarten to class three.

DeSantis also signed the Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act which prohibits the teaching of critical race theory in schools. These laws do not outright ban books however due to their broad languages many schools in Florida and across the nation banned large numbers of books from schools.

The feared consequences

A Seattle-based high school teacher, Jesse Hagopian shared with Al Jazeera that the current censorship movement is similar to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s era of the 1950s. Many instances of systematically expelling communists and LGBTQ+ from public institutions were noted in that era.

“They want to drag us back to the period when it was criminalised to be queer or to seek racial justice”

According to Hagopian, without access to curriculum and books covering subjects about identity and history, ‘the consequence could be devastating.’ Youth will face the risk of losing access to stories that can help them build a more just society.

Barnes and Noble's response / Anne Frank's diary

Following Barnes and Noble’s banned book display controversy, Sarah J Fields reached out to the bookseller to complain regarding free access for children to sexually explicit content. The bookseller answered her email and shared that they have reviewed the matter with the appropriate people.

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