According to the American Library Association (ALA), Banned Books Week (September 26-October 2, 2021) “is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”
Along with many other libraries this week, Hackney Library will be celebrating “Banned Books Week” with a display of titles in our collection that at one time or another have been challenged or censored because of content. You may be surprised at many of the titles in our collection that have been challenged.
“The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship,” according to ALA. The theme of this year’s “Banned Books Week” commemoration is “Books Unite Us: Censorship Divides Us.”
According to the ALA’s Bannedbooksweek.org site, the list of most banned books in 2020 (the year most recently documented) includes titles that address racism and racial justice, as well as those that shared the stories of Black, Indigenous, or people of color. As with previous years, LGBTQ+ content also dominated the list.
Here is the 2020 list and a summary of reasons for banning taken from Bannedbooksweek.org:
- 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 the 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 antipolice 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, it was claimed to be biased against male students, and it included 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 on the part of 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 antipolice 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 because it was thought to promote an antipolice message.
According to the Bannedbooksweek.org site, the 10 most commonly cited reasons for challenges/censorship of books are LGBTQ content, sexual explicitness, profanity, racism, violence, religious viewpoint, sex education, suicide, drug and alcohol use, and nudity.
Do your part in helping to unite against censorship by perusing our display, and then checking out and reading a banned or challenged book.