AT first thought, they seem like the acts of an era long past, but in America, the effort to ban and remove books is accelerating.


Banning books?

Parents and school bodies across the US have been increasingly focusing their attention on school libraries and the books available to children, ramping up efforts to ban titles considered "inappropriate" from shelves, with conservative politicians and lawmakers leading the charge.


It’s getting serious?

According to local paper, the Free-Lance Star, in Virginia, two school board members there were particularly concerned by books including “33 Snowfish,” a work about homeless teens who deal with sexual abuse, prostitution and drug addiction, saying they didn't just want certain books removed, but burned, stating: “We should throw those books in a fire."


What are the books?

Most are mainly related to race, gender and sometimes feminism. In Kansas, more than two dozen tomes have been removed from school libraries in the Goddard school district of Wichita, with the list including Fences, a play focusing on race relations by the late American writer August Wilson that won the Pulitzer for drama in 1987, and The Bluest Eye, which focuses on race and other themes such as feminism, by the late American author, Toni Morrison.


What else?

Overall, the list includes several works by people of colour or books featuring characters from diverse backgrounds - some LGBTQ characters or young people struggling with issues of sexuality or gender.


Any other standout works?

From the extensive list, it is perhaps the works of Margaret Atwood that are among the best known, including her dystopian novel about authoritarian rule and female oppression, The Handmaid's Tale, and its sequel, The Testaments. 


Why have they been removed?

Goddard assistant superintendent for academic affairs, Julie Cannizzo, sent an email to schools with the list of 29 books, saying “we're not banning these books” but it is a “list of books may have content that's unsuitable for children” and they are investigating.


What’s happening in Texas?

Texas state lawmaker, Republican Matt Krause, has compiled a list of around 850 books that "might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex” and has called on schools in his state to advise whether or not they hold any of the works.


What books make his list?

Books focusing on topics including puberty, reproduction, pregnancy and abortion, either fiction or non-fiction. Works include The Cider House Rules by US author John Irving, which looks at abortion, racism and addiction.


What’s his goal?

Authors on the list have taken Krause's inquiry as a sign he hopes to remove them from circulation. One affected author, Kalynn Bayron, whose book “Cinderella is Dead” is a reimagining of the classic story featuring a gay, Black protagonist, is on the list. She said: “I’d like Matt Krause to know that nothing he does will keep my work out of the hands of young readers.”


Banning books is nothing new?

There is a long list of classic novels that have been banned at one time or another, including DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange and JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, with the publicity from the bans fuelling sales. The notoriety of Lawrence’s work, which led to his publisher going on trial for obscenity 60 years ago, saw sales surge. Three million copies sold in the three months following the trial.