Rutger Bruining, CEO of leading memoir-writing firm StoryTerrace, discusses the importance of literature being a safe and collaborative space
A recent report by The American Library Association (ALA) unveiled new data showing an unprecedented rise in the demand to censor library books in 2022 – the highest number of book bans in 20 years. However, new research indicates that banning novels that contain sensitive content it risks developmental issues in our brains – due to the stimulation that comes from reading challenging literature. Not only do these bans impact our health, with data from StoryTerrace, America’s leading memoir-writing firm, showing that 51% say that reading stories they can relate to has a positive impact on their mental health, but it also impacts our society, as it limits our worldview and potential for learning. Rutger Bruining, CEO and founder of StoryTerrace discusses the need for literature to be a safe and collaborative space. Having seen thousands of clients go through the service from all walks of life, Bruining argues that literature can provide a much-needed voice to marginalized communities aside from the cognitive benefits.
“Literature has always been a safe space for us to delve into the darker aspects of life. Since the advent of StoryTerrace, we have seen countless memoirs come through the service from people from all walks of life – and this is what truly lies at the core of our ethos, giving everyone a space to share their story and explore the nuances of their lifetime through the power of literature. – Rutger Bruining, CEO and founder of StoryTerrace.
Most books being banned were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and authors from an ethnic minority background. Amidst what many are touting to be a ‘culture war’ – books stand at the forefront. Libraries in the US have found themselves at odds with rightwing readers over book stock, and now British libraries are suffering the same fate.
Over the years, books discussing the LGBTQ+ community have been banned in many places worldwide, including schools, libraries, and other public places. Banning such books has significantly impacted the LGBTQ+ community, as it perpetuates negative stereotypes, promotes inequality, and robs individuals from accessing authentic and empowering stories. Banning books that deal with the LGBTQ+ community perpetuates negative stereotypes. Literature provides a unique way of expressing the experiences, struggles, and triumphs of people from marginalized communities. A lack of visible representation in literature not only sends a message that the stories of these people are not worth telling but also perpetuates the negative stereotypes people hold about these communities. The literature features people who look and love differently from one another, and readers can learn from these stories of empathy and inclusion. By banning books that feature the LGBTQ+ community, it further promotes inequality and intolerance. It tells young people within the community that their experiences are lesser and marginalizes them. It also creates an atmosphere of intolerance, not only towards the LGBTQ+ community but also towards those who seek to understand them. LGBTQ+ youth must see themselves represented in literature and the world in positive, authentic, and empowering ways. Banning such books suppresses this freedom of expression, further solidifying this inequality.
Banning books is a disservice to the general public and robs society of valuable opportunities to learn, empathize, and grow as humans. Lack of representation in literature perpetuates negative stereotypes and inequality. Banning these books denies access to valuable educational materials needed to increase comprehension, empathy, and acceptance of people in the LGBTQ+ community. It is essential to embrace diversity, be open to different experiences, and break down barriers that prevent people from sharing their stories. By doing so, we create an inclusive and diverse world that celebrates and empowers us all.
The publishing industry, in general, has always had a diversity issue – with research from WordsRated stating that between 1950 and 2018, 95% of American fiction books published were written by white authors. This starkly contrasts the 7.1% of black authors between 1996 and 2020, reinforcing the importance of writers from diverse backgrounds. Amidst a homogenous industry, it becomes more pertinent than ever that books from marginalized authors receive a platform.
Bruining told The Scope Weekly, “Seeing that the public has become so adamant about banning books that deal with topics on race or LGBTQ issues is worrying, as it limits the potential for literature to inspire and educate. With our bookshelves becoming increasingly censored, we lose out on the collaborative and inclusive nature of writing.”