Over the past few years, book bans have “rapidly spread” across the US, according to the literacy society PEN America.
Naperville-based Sourcebooks knows the situation all too well as the publisher of the ninth most banned book on the top 10 list compiled by the American Library Association’s Challenged and Banned Books website.
“This Book is Gay” was written by transgender author Juno Dawson, who discusses sexuality and gender issues and what it’s like to grow up LGBTQ.
Dominique Raccah started the company in the upstairs bedroom of her Naperville home in 1987. It has grown to have more than 150 employees, with offices in Arizona, Connecticut and New York City, where most of its competitors are based.
Now the eighth-largest book publisher in the United States, “We’re coming up on Disney’s tail,” said Amy Jackson, a senior marketing and publicity associate for Sourcebooks.
Sourcebooks has published several books that have been subject to bans, including “Me and White Supremacy” by Layla F. Saad and “The Pants Project” by Cat Clarke, a youth fiction novel that deals with LGBTQ issues.
From July 2021 to July 2022, Pen America counted 2,532 instances of individual books being banned, covering 1,648 unique book titles. Seven-hundred twenty-nine books were challenged in 2021, according to the American Library Association, the most of any year since it started tracking the numbers two decades ago.
Raccah wrote on the Sourcebooks website: “Book banning doesn’t protect anyone: it denies access to new perspectives. It closes doors to important conversations. It undermines everything we stand for as a democratic society.”
The publisher says it approaches its mission with the premise that “all voices matter.”
“Naperville is a great creative location, filled with smart, family-oriented people,” Raccah says on the company’s website. “When you look at both our company (in terms of the culture and the people) as well as the books we publish, we look a lot like our community.”
Jackson said the book bans are being spearheaded largely by coalitions of suburban mothers, such as Moms for Liberty, which has a DuPage County chapter. They aim to have books on topics such as “race, gender, diversity and inclusion” removed from schools and libraries, she said.
In an email, Shannon Adcock, chair of Moms for Liberty DuPage and founder of Awake Illinois, said the group hasn’t targeted books for removal from libraries.
“We support transparency in any curricula and believe parent’s expectations should be respected as to how and where their children access sexually explicit material of any kind,” said Adcock, who’s running for a seat on the Indian Prairie District 204 School Board.
“We encourage all publicly funded entities to partner with parents in the conversations about content, books, lessons or discussions that are accessible to minors, especially when they depict graphic sex acts of any kind,” she said.
Giles Bruce is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.