Banned Books

In the fall of 2021, lala books joined bookstores and libraries across the country to mark Banned Book Week, an annual event recognizing the ongoing challenges to books in cities and towns across the United States. Many customers were surprised to find so many beloved titles on the list of books banned or challenged in the past few years. But books have long been recognized as holding a particular power and so inspire fear in those determined to maintain the status quo.


Books are banned in one part of the country or another every single year. School districts and library boards hear from people who want particular titles taken off the shelves, and sometimes they comply. The most common reason is that books are deemed “inappropriate for children” due to language, sexual content, or violence. When you start looking at the titles, you see that politics and religion play a large part in book challenges.


Challenges to books often  center around fear and an intolerance of challenges to a particular person’s view of the world. Books like George(Melissa) by Alex Gino are banned because of their positive portrayal of an elementary school student who is transgender. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, written with older teens in mind, was ostensibly  banned because of inappropriate language and depiction of drug use, though some challengers were honest about their discomfort with the book’s frank discussion of police brutality.


Sometimes, book banning enters the realm of ridiculous or simple misunderstanding. One year, my principal came into my 2nd grade classroom and found a student reading Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems. Without reading it herself, she said the book seemed inappropriate and suggested I remove it from my classroom. It was the word naked that bothered her. Of course, naked mole rat is the actual name of this animal, and Mo Willems played off that name to write an engaging and funny book perfect for 2nd graders.


Banning books is in the news a lot right now, and at first, I just thought of it as part of the normal challenges that happen all the time. But right now, things are amping up. Politicians in some states are creating long lists of books that they want out of schools, sometimes including threats to teachers who might still have students read the books. Teachers in some states are in fear of being reported to authorities or sued by parents. Some people have started publicly burning books. It’s frightening.


At lala books, we curate our collections. That means that we make choices about what to put on our shelves. Those choices are rooted in our customers, not in censorship. As we get to know you all more, we know what sorts of books you want to find. We pay attention to what you buy, what you order, what makes you leave empty handed and disappointed. We also want to find books that you didn’t know you wanted, books that will challenge you or give you that bit of escape to alleviate the stress of the world. We work really hard to find books that offer mirrors so that we all can see ourselves in the pages, as well as windows into new ideas and different cultures. 


We’re a business, we want to sell books. But we are also community members and we want to serve a need in our community. We take our book selection seriously, knowing that you are counting on us. And, if we don’t have a book you want, we’ll get it for you if we can, even if it’s one we consciously chose not to stock. If you are wondering why a book is not on our shelves when you want it, just ask. It could be because we didn’t know about the book, could be because we didn’t think there was a market for it, could be we just can’t possibly carry every book and we made a different choice on an order. And yes, it could be because it is a book we didn’t want to carry because the content went against our mission or values. Still, if you want it, just ask. No judgment. No censorship. 


All of us at lala books are happy to see you reading, and honored to be a part of your reading life. We keep reading banned books because seriously, the list is long and filled with some really great titles. We hope you keep reading the books that you want to read.


Please share your ideas about how our community can support readers. Thanks for reading.