Some, or even all, of these challenges may be misguided, silly, or narrow-minded. But even if you’re firmly opposed to “banning books”—and I am!—it’s hard to argue that parents should have no right to weigh in on what their children read at school. There’s an enormous difference between parents saying a book shouldn’t appear on their kid’s required reading list and a citizen demanding that adults should have no access to a book at a public library. And it should shock no one that in a country of 300 million people, there are a few hundred cases each year in which someone objects to a particular book’s availability, especially to children.
And in the clear majority of cases, the challenge ends the way that Jackie Sims’ objection to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks ended. The school board already had a policy in place regarding sensitive instructional materials, and Sims’ son was provided with an alternate text. In media interviews, district officials seemed unmoved by Sims’ demands that no other students should have access to the book, either. (Sims has said she’ll keep appealing.) So in one corner were the media, the masses, the author, and the school board. In the other, one woman in East Tennessee. This Banned Books Week, instead of hand-wringing about a nonexistent wave of censorship, let’s celebrate the obvious: The books won.