“What gives me hope,” Johnson tells BBC Culture, “is that the majority of the country is against book bans. The fact that the bans are activating students to fight for their rights to have books. And that we are winning in a lot of counties, and keeping the books on shelves. We are galvanised and organised and ready to continue this fight for as long as it takes. Furthermore, the banning of books has not stopped publishers from allowing more stories to be written. Eventually, there will be so many stories that you can’t ban them all.”
Nobel laureate Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, a coming-of-age story that explores the effects of racism on a young girl’s psyche, is third on the ALA’s most challenged list. Morrison once explained that the book’s title was inspired by black childhood friend who, at age 11 told her she had been praying for two years for blue eyes. “This kind of racism hurts,” Morrison said. “This is not lynchings and murders and drownings. This is interior pain.”
As BBC Culture honours the 100 greatest children’s books of all time, it’s a good moment to envision the children’s books still to be written (and illustrated), the myriad of voices still to be heard, the stories still to be told. And to consider Morrison’s eloquent argument against book banning in Burn This Book, the PEN America anthology she edited. “The thought that leads me to contemplate with dread the erasure of other voices, of unwritten novels, poems whispered or swallowed for fear of being overheard by the wrong people, outlawed languages flourishing underground, essayists’ questions challenging authority never being posed, unstaged plays, cancelled films – that thought is a nightmare. As though a whole universe is being described in invisible ink.”
Read more about BBC Culture‘s 100 greatest children‘s books:
– The 100 greatest children’s books
– Why Where the Wild Things Are is the greatest children’s book
– The 21st Century’s greatest children’s books
– Who voted?
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