A Sign of Hope in the Fight Against Authoritarianism

How marching as the books you love and want to protect may build the pro-democracy movement

Micah Sifry


Emily Rizzo, WHYY

Saturday evening in Doyleston, Pennsylvania, a group of residents put on clunky pasteboard outfits each depicting the cover of a different book: Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. They were out as part of Banned Books Week, a nationwide campaign to insist on the freedom to read that is pushing back against rising efforts to ban books or limit access to them because they address sexual or racial topics in ways that conservatives want to suppress. In addition to marching, organizers also collected dozens of copies of targeted books and distributed them to Little Free Libraries around the region.

I love it. Those of us who are worried about the future of American democracy have been looking for ways to act tangibly and positively in response to the rising wave of antidemocratic fervor in the country, and these Doyleston marchers may have found a great new tactic. Walking as the books we want to protect is a wonderful way to visibly say what we are for. It takes the conflict over the freedom to read into the public square and it does so in a way that is easy to replicate. And anyone can do it: you don’t have to be a famous author speaking on a panel about banned books, you can just be a reader devoted to what books represent.

On top of that, collecting banned books and spreading them to Little Free Libraries is a great way to reinforce a little-noted piece of civic infrastructure that, like community fridges stocked with free food, embody inclusion and generosity and helps to counter intolerance and closemindedness. The Little Free Library movement was started in 2009 by Todd Bol, a former teacher, who believed that setting up and stewarding mini-libraries could bring neighbors together. His initial goal for the little boxes was 2,150 — the number of Carnegie Libraries in America. Now there are more than 150,000 Little Free Libraries around the world.

It’s not a perfect movement — there are definitely more of these little boxes in and near affluent communities than poor ones. The nonprofit started by Bol tries to…