Book banning efforts are inspiring readers to form banned book clubs

Members of the Teen Banned Book Club gather at Firefly Bookstore in Kutztown, Pennsylvania.

(CNN)When Joslyn Diffenbaugh learned about efforts in Texas to remove certain books from school libraries and classrooms, she was surprised by the titles that were being challenged.

An avid reader, the 8th grader from Kutztown, Pennsylvania, said she had read several of the books in question. Among the titles that had come under attack in recent years were "The Hate U Give," a novel about a young Black girl who grapples with racism and police brutality, and "All American Boys," a novel about two teenagers -- one Black and one White -- who contend with similar issues.
Those books had been eye-opening for Diffenbaugh, exposing her to realities that she might not otherwise have encountered. That some parents and politicians were trying to limit other young people's understanding of such issues as racism was concerning to her.
"The reason these books are being banned are the reasons why they should probably be read," the 14-year-old said she was thinking at the time.
The recent wave of book challenges inspired Diffenbaugh to join forces with the local Firefly Bookstore and start the Banned Book Club. Since January, she and other young people in her area have been meeting every other week to discuss classic and contemporary titles that have been contested.
The community is one of several banned book clubs that have formed in response to a growing push from the right to control what titles young people have access to. And it points to an ironic effect: The more certain books are singled out, the more people want to read them.

One club hopes readers find themselves in banned books

Book banning -- or at least, book banning attempts -- appears to be having a resurgence.
The American Library Association recorded 729 challenges to library, school and university materials and services in 2021, the most since the organization began tracking those attempts in 2000. While that might seem low overall considering the approximately 99,000 K-12 public schools in the US, the ALA says it's likely an extreme undercount.
In recent months, conservative local and state officials have taken aim both at specific titles and broad categories of books that deal with race, gender or sexuality. And while attempts to remove those books from library shelves or classrooms haven't all been successful, the efforts themselves have garnered interest in banned books from readers across the country.
That was the impetus for the Banned Books Book Club, a project from the company Reclamation Ventures, which also runs the newsletter Anti-Racism Daily. Nicole Cardoza, the company's founder and CEO, said that young readers of the newsletter had increasingly been asking for resources on how they might engage with books being targeted for removal.
"This conservative pushback is actually generating a lot of interest in books that might not be something the average student is being exposed to otherwise," she said. "[We want to] help connect more people to the stories that matter most -- that reflect marginalized experiences that they might not hear otherwise."
Many of the books that have been challenged recently center Black or LGBTQ characters, and Cardoza said she hopes that members of the Banned Books Book Club might find parts of themselves reflected in the books that are chosen. The club, which launched in early April and plans to meet virtually once a month, is reading "The Hate U Give" as its first pick.
"The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas is the first pick for the Banned Books Book Club, a new project from the company Reclamation Ventures.