It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this that we’ve seen a massive uptick in book bans this past year. Perhaps even less surprisingly, more than half of those challenges concern books featuring LGBTQ+ authors, storylines, or themes. From George M. Johnson’s award-winning memoir, All Boys Aren’t Blue, to Maia Koibabe’s Gender Queer, we’re seeing some of the most accessible and widely-loved young adult offerings being systematically challenged in Florida, Texas, Missouri, Utah, South Carolina, and plenty more states across the nation.
These bans don’t just make award-winning queer reads unavailable to queer youth and endanger librarians’ abilities to help their communities: they send a clear message that even after all these years, our fundamental rights can still be taken away at the drop of a hat.
Censorship is no laughing matter, but we’ll make an exception for the following thirteen cases
The “ed scare” is definitely scary. But the censors have forgotten one thing: the Internet. That’s right: you can read books on the Internet. In fact, a lot of people prefer it. And if you hadn’t noticed, there are more than a few ways to get your hands on the books that Ron DeSantis doesn’t want you to read. Not all of them are strictly legal, but who cares? Reading is a human right, and stories are our way of feeling seen, heard, and loved before we even have the words for who we are.
So if you’re dealing with censorship at school, at home, or even at the local library, here are a few ways to find whatever books you’re looking for.
Ah, old reliable: apart from Project Gutenberg, Internet Archive is one of the oldest (and still greatest) ways of accessing hard-to-find, out-of-print, and buried titles you genuinely can’t find anywhere else. You can check out books online by making a free account and keep renewing if you need more time.
An Audible account starts at around $8 per month, and that $8 gives you access to millions of titles in every conceivable genre. Most exciting, perhaps, is the fact that you can listen to these books for extra discretion. This option isn’t perfect (for instance, you can’t really “listen” to a graphic novel), and it is affiliated with Amazon, which isn’t ideal. But if you’ve got the cash and you like the idea of keeping every book you read, this is a pretty good option.
Your local library might not let you access certain titles, but guess what? There’s no law that says you have to use your local library. If you want to access every book known to man, the best possible thing you can do for yourself is to get a New York City library card (or any other major US city) or find someone who does. That way, you’re not limited to the books your local library (or state database) has access to. Smart readers don’t just have one library account for one city: they’re still using their library account from childhood, as well as an account from college, as well as at least four other accounts from random places they’ve lived. So, you know, get creative with it.
Another great free resource to read free books! Like Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg, the options are limited primarily to public domain works, but listen: you never know what will get banned next. Shakespeare? Ibsen? Frederick Douglass? As a bonus, many of these titles are also available as audio files.
Remember Google Books? Well, it’s still chock full of goodness: you just have to look a little harder to find the good stuff. Might we suggest starting with the “free” category?
Ok folks: this is the mother of them all. If you want to download literally any book in pretty much any language, this is where you need to go. Is it 100% legal? Probably not. Could I care less? Not if I tried. I’m not kidding when I tell you that you can find and download almost any text on Earth in PDF or Kindle-supported formats.
Do you have to pay to have an account? Yes. Is there a ton of great content, from academic journals to classic texts? Also yes.
Believe it or not, plenty of LGBTQ+ bookstores still exist, and not just in big cities. Independent retailers around the country are embracing queer titles, or you can also check out the online bookstore ShopQueer.co.
This article includes links that may result in a small affiliate share for purchased products, which helps support independent LGBTQ+ media.
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