ATLANTA — Book bans are making a national resurgence, and Georgia is one of the states leading the charge, according to literary and free expression advocacy organization PEN America.
The literary organization has created an Index of School Book Bans to try and track the trends. Its database documents decisions to ban books in school libraries and classrooms across the U.S. from July 1, 2021, through March 31, 2022. Data shows a majority of book bans stem from 12 states, including Georgia.
In its list, Georgia has 13 book bans all coming out of one district: Forsyth County. Some titles include "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," "Two Boys Kissing," and "The Handmaid's Tale." Georgia surpasses New York and Utah when it comes to removing books off school library shelves. However, Texas takes the lead with 713 bans.
PEN America notes Georgia could move up on its list with the new state law addressing books in school. Georgia's SB 226, passed by lawmakers last week, gives school principals 10 days to address requests to remove a book and determine its obscenity.
According to the American Library Association, the most challenged books over the past 30 years include "Harry Potter," "To Kill a Mockingbird," and the animated children’s series "Captain Underpants."
The association said the average year sees about 300 book challenges, with the last four months of 2021 seeing approximately 500.
Trends show books are being pulled off the shelves often include topics discussing race and racism in American history, LGBTQ+ identities and sexual education in schools. PEN America notes about a quarter of titles deal with sexual or health-related content.
Though the conversation largely surrounds school officials removing books from the classroom or school libraries, PEN America notes that public pressure, legal action and open conversation with parents can put books back on the shelves.