Books unite us. Censorship divides us. That’s the theme of this year’s Banned Books Week, September 26 through October 2.
This annual weeklong recognition of books that have been challenged, restricted, and in some cases pulled from shelves was instated in 1982. Banned Books Week 2021 introduces its Inaugural Honorary Chair, New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds—and it’s the perfect reason to celebrate our freedom to read!
Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance. —Laurie Halse Anderson
A recent uproar over an extensive book ban in a Pennsylvania school district resulted in a reversal of the school board’s decision and a lift of the ban. This is an encouraging turn of events that points to the effectiveness of protesting actions that infringe upon our First Amendment-granted freedom of expression.
This Banned Books Week is a great time to reflect upon the importance of unrestricted access to books from all voices and perspectives. Ready to start? Check out the list of the 10 most challenged books of 2020, compiled by the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom:
- 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
Celebrate Your Freedom to Read at Books-A-Million
Explore our selection of challenged books and find the ones that speak to you. It is our privilege to make books of all kinds readily available, and in so doing, to help uphold the freedom of expression established by the First Amendment.