Adult Display Highlight: Banned Books Week

September 6, 2021 – Alli Boyer, Adult Services

September brings us to Banned Books Week, and, as a library, obviously we’re gonna talk about that! This year, Banned Books Week is September 26 through October 2, and its theme is “Books Unite Us, Censorship Divides Us.” The goal of Banned Books Week has always been to celebrate the freedom to read, so ALA takes time to highlight the most challenged books of the previous year.

The top 10 challenged books of 2020 are:
George by Alex Gino
Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author
• Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message

As a librarian, I think it’s important to celebrate the freedom to read whatever you want. Sure, if it’s controversial I encourage you to read about differing viewpoints. Reading about the lives of others, both real people and fictional characters, is a great way for children and adults to become more empathetic and to see what life outside their own individual reality looks like. Those books shouldn’t be censored because they make us feel uncomfortable, especially when real people are still experiencing that discomfort in their real lives.

If you would like to read some banned and challenged books, here are some staff favorites!

Youth:
Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner

Goosebumps by R.L. Stein
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
The Giver by Lois Lowry

Teen:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Drama by Raina Telgemeir
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Adult:
Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Saga by Brian K Vaughn

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