Index Books in the United States

Index Books in the United States
Index Books in the United States

When Adam Tritt received an email informing him that he could no longer review the novels Slaughterhouse-Five (Slaughterhouse 5by Kurt Vonnegut, who recounts the absurdity of war) and The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini), his blood only boiled. That was in 2022. Since then, more than 200 other books have been blacklisted in the Brevard, Florida, school district where he teaches teenagers ages 15 to 17.

Book bans are increasing in American schools. As of April 2023, PEN America, an organization that defends the “freedom to read” in the United States, listed 2,823 banned titles in 5,894 notices nationwide — and even then, those are just the bans on it. reported. The targeted works address racism, sexual diversity and attacks in particular, all in an inappropriate manner, according to certain parents, pressure groups or politicians. Florida accounts for 40% of these withdrawals, but it is also the epicenter of a growing resistance movement, the organization observes.

Adam Tritt is one of those who resolved to fight censorship through action: “I decided that I was going to donate these books. » To finance the operation, he set up Foundation 451, in reference to the futuristic novel Fahrenheit 451which depicts an America where books are banned and burned.

The teacher found people around him who, he said, “felt the need to do something”: at a florist, in a bakery, a bookstore, branches of Ben & Jerry’s. Young people can obtain the titles banned in class for free. The small network has already distributed nearly 7,000. Initiatives of this type are appearing throughout the state, and even beyond, such as the non-profit organization Banned Books USA, in New York State, which allows Floridians to obtain books banned in their homes online.

The students themselves resisted: they set up reading clubs for banned books and underground libraries, in addition to speaking at school board meetings. “These difficult subjects from which we want to protect them,” explains Sabrina Baêta, of PEN America, “they are already experiencing them. They demand access to these books which describe their reality. »

Nationally, public libraries have resolved to provide access to their e-book collections across the country. The organization responsible for Little Free Libraries — the American equivalent of Quebec’s Croque-livres — estimates that 87% of its boxes are used to share banned titles.

According to an Ipsos/We Believe poll conducted in October 2023, 78% of Americans, and 62% of Republicans, would be less inclined to vote for a candidate favorable to bans. “It is contrary to American values ​​regarding freedom of expression,” judges Sabrina Baêta. Adam Tritt believes it too. Support from the far right and religious groups testifies to this. Veterans told him they didn’t fight for “that”.

The teacher is convinced that books have an effect on living together. “By removing them, we are taking away from young people who feel different their history and that of their community. We also take away the opportunity for others to learn this history, which makes us more and more divided. » He admits to taking great pleasure in thwarting the censors: “Putting obstacles in their way makes me feel good!” »

This article was published in the June 2024 issue of Newsunder the title “Books in the Index”.

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