Teenage Joslyn Diffenbaugh grew up in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, a county of just over 5,000 southwest of Allentown, and recently found a new hobby: reading banned books.
At a time when Republican lawmakers and school districts across the country have been cracking down on a plethora of books dealing with race, politics, gender, sexuality, and the body in general, students like 14-year-old Joslyn are looking for the literature that certain political leaders would rather keep out of their hands.
Joslyn, whose Berks County home supported Donald Trump as his 2020 presidential nominee, has seen the movement to ban books come to Kutztown as well: The school board narrowly voted to keep Maia Kobabes in January Gender Queer: A Memoir available for students in the university library.
The teenager who described herself as a “book nerd” in an interview with the Washington Postrecently read Angie Thomas’ The hate you give and All American boys by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds.
Now she has started a club for like-minded students who need space to read and discuss banned literature.
With the support of the local Firefly bookstore, the Teen Banned Book Club has met regularly since January. The group of 12 read six novels, with authors ranging from George Orwell to Ibram X. Kendi.
The club is currently on the move, receiving suggestions from the bookstore’s Jordan Busits about possible new books to read and discuss. By holding the reading group at the store instead of at her school, Joslyn said the group is more accessible to people from other nearby schools and communities.
“These books are great works of literature and I just didn’t understand why so many people wanted to ban them,” she said Post. “It’s important that people read these books because they help them grow.”