Book bans are nothing new, but a surge in recent years of book removals and challenges in Georgia and across the country is moving local and national groups to take action against censorship.
On Oct. 1, the Banned Wagon Tour, an initiative combating the rise of book bans across American school districts, comes to Charis Books & More, the South’s oldest independent feminist bookstore, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Charis is located at 184 S. Candler St. in Decatur.
The Banned Wagon, sponsored by Penguin Random House, The Freedom to Read Foundation, PEN America and Little Free Library, is intended to amplify the fight against book bans and celebrate the people and places leading the ongoing fight against censorship in the Atlanta area, according to organizers. A selection of banned and challenged books will also be handed out free.
“We want people to fight for their public schools. We want people to fight for public institutions,” said E.R. Anderson, executive director of Charis Circle, the nonprofit programming arm of Charis Books.
“Oct. 1 is an opportunity for people to come and get educated, to meet with other people who care about this issue and, even if you don’t want to do any of that, just come get free books,” Anderson said.
Nic Stone, a New York Times best selling author and Atlanta resident, whose young adult book “Dear Martin” has been banned from hundreds of school districts including Columbia County in Georgia, will be at the Charis Banned Wagon event to sign books and participate in a brief Q&A.
“Dear Martin,” published in 2017, tells the story of a Black private school student’s violent encounter with police. The traumatic event leads the student to start a journal filled with letters to Martin Luther King Jr. questioning his teachings and their relevance in today’s society.
“I think what people do not realize or think about when they decide to ban a book is that you’re telling the kids who are like the characters in the book that they are not welcome in certain spaces,” Stone said in an email.
Charis recently hosted Cobb County teacher Katie Rinderle, who was fired last month by the Cobb County School Board for reading “My Shadow Is Purple,” a book about gender fluidity, to her fifth-grade class.
Cobb County School officials claimed the book violated Georgia’s 2022 classroom censorship law banning so-called divisive concepts, mostly about race, even though legal advocates say the law is vague and unconstitutional.
Book bans largely target books featuring LGBTQ+ themes or characters, characters of color or themes of race and racism, or themes of violence, sexual experiences, and health and wellbeing, Anderson said.
“We at Charis understand that book bans are a tool that are designed to silence not only just speech, but human lives,” Anderson said. “We believe it’s especially harmful to kids in terms of marginalized identities to be told books that reflects your life is so dangerous it can’t be on the shelf.”
“It’s a really dangerous time,” Anderson said. “At Charis, we want parents and teachers to feel supported in their rights to do what’s best for their kids.”
This story has been updated with a comment from Nic Stone.