Stephen King shares advice for young people whose schools are banning books
When it comes to book bans, Stephen King wants young people to make sure they “find out what they don’t want you to read”.
There has been a “dramatic expansion of book banning” across the US in recent years according to PEN America, with 41 per cent of the books banned in schools across the 2021-22 school year containing LGBTQ+ characters or themes.
Many books (40 per cent) that were targeted contained a character of colour, and a further 21 per cent directly addressed issues of race and racism.
It’s all part of a “coordinated campaign”, PEN believes, coming amid wider efforts to erase LGBTQ+ people from classrooms and public life.
Stephen King rallied against these bans on Twitter, urging school children to get their hands on banned books.
King wrote: “Hey, kids! It’s your old buddy Steve King telling you that if they ban a book in your school, haul your ass to the nearest bookstore or library ASAP and find out what they don’t want you to read.”
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His tweet, which was posted on Wednesday (18 January), has been retweeted more than 140,000 times.
Many backed his suggestion, with one follower pointing out that young people might be disappointed by how un-salacious many banned books are.
The frustrating part for the kids is that they’ll make this trek on the expectation of salacious or subversive content and 9/10 times end up saying, “THIS is what I forged my mom’s signature to read? A couple of penguins? I was promised deviance!”— Tessa Dare (@TessaDare) January 19, 2023
One follower recalled King’s own books being withheld by teachers.
In my school, a very long time ago🧓, my French teachers didn’t want me to read Stephen King. So, I hauled my ass… I read it all and loved it. So much🤟— Damien Mercereau (@DamienMercereau) January 18, 2023
But others weren’t so supportive, and reinforced the anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric that has caused an increase in the books being banned.
King’s support comes at a time when LGBTQ+ books are being banned in ever-increasing numbers.
In Florida, a school district banned an adorable book about the true story of a same-sex penguin couple raising a baby chick in response to the state’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.
The law, also known as HB 1557, essentially bans discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in Florida schools through third grade. Anti-LGBTQ+ governor Ron DeSantis championed and signed the measure into law in March 2022.
In Michigan, a Librarian went viral after she described being “threatened” and “cursed on the phone” because the library stocked LGBTQ+ books.
According to PEN America, an increasingly influential network of conservative groups are working to ban an increasing number of books from school libraries.
Stephen King on LGBTQ+ rights
In 2020 the horror author joined Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman and more than 1,800 American and Canadian literary figures in pledging their support for trans and non-binary people.
It followed JK Rowling publishing an explosive essay detailing her views on trans rights, and her reasoning for opposing trans inclusion in women’s spaces.
In 2021 Stephen King said Rowling “cancelled” and “blocked” him after he told his followers: “Yes, trans women are women”.
Reflecting on the incident King said: “If she thinks that trans women are dangerous, or that trans women are somehow not women, or whatever problem she has with it – the idea that someone ‘masquerading’ as a woman is going to assault a ‘real’ woman in the toilet – if she believes all those things, she has a right to her opinion.”
King has also thrown his support behind the decision to add a queer subplot to the film It Chapter Two, even though it was a departure from his book.
In a 2019 interview with Vanity Fair, King was asked whether he intended this romantic subtext when writing the characters’ relationship in the book.
He responded: “No, I never did. But again, it’s one of those things that’s kind of genius, because it echoes the beginning. It comes full circle.”
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