Banned Books Week is a celebration of books that are questioned or banned by the public. To celebrate the holiday, many books by black authors received considerable attention.
Why are some books censored?
Banning books is a practice that began centuries ago. Anyone can move to do it, which is called a challenge. Readings are removed from certain settings, such as classrooms or bookstores, if the reasons for the challenge are deemed valid.
PEN America reports that more than 2,500 books have been banned in school districts in more than 30 states since 2021. Texas leads with more textbook bans than any other U.S. state.
According to the American Library Association, the top three reasons to question a book are that it contains pornographic content, offensive language, or is inappropriate for any age group.
Of course, censorship isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it can help protect children and other vulnerable groups from the discovery of inaccurate, inappropriate and other harmful material. However, when censorship happens unreasonably, it can become a big problem.
What is Banned Books Week?
This annual event highlights books removed from schools, bookstores, libraries and other public spaces. This year, the festivities take place from September 18th to September 24th. Its theme, “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divide Us,” is raising awareness of how censorship negatively affects the book community.
Censorship can cause a lot of problems for authors and readers. But luckily, this week expanded the voices of authors whose work has been unfairly censored. You can get in on the action by supporting the coalition as they fight for our right to read. Here are five banned books to get you started as soon as possible.
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“All Boys Are Not Blue” by George M. Johnson
“All Boys Are Not Blue” by George M. Johnson is a collection of essays centered on Johnson’s black and queer experiences growing up in New Jersey and Virginia. This book tackles heavy topics like sexual consent and sexual abuse like a love letter to someone who can relate to it.
The book has received rave reviews from major publications including The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. But not everyone was excited about its success.
The ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom has listed “All Boys Are Not Blue” as the third most challenging and banned book for 2021 due to its pornographic content and depictions of abuse.
That didn’t stop Johnson, though. Instead, he went on to write five books and counting.
“The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas
You may remember the 2018 hit movie “The Hate You Give,” about a young girl named Starkat who lives in the city center. She witnessed her best friend Khalil being shot by police, sparking a national outcry. When a powerful neighborhood gang threatens her to keep silent, she must decide whether to fight for his justice or her life.
Before The Hate You Give was a super successful movie, it was a book written by Angie Thomas. Critics found its portrayal of law enforcement offensive, saying its message was a form of social or political indoctrination. The book was also banned for its use of profanity and violence.
Fortunately, the book was well received by fans across the country. As a result, it hit the New York Times bestseller list and stayed there for a whopping 80 weeks!
The Bluest Eye by Tony Morrison
The Bluest Eye is the first novel by legendary author Tony Morrison. It follows an African-American girl named Pecola growing up in Ohio after the Great Depression. The target of bullying, Pecora Jr. desperately tries to blend in with his white peers. As a result, she developed an inferiority complex and wished to have blue eyes. But all she got was heartache and pain.
The Bluest Eye has been banned from multiple high schools across the country due to its depiction of child abuse, pornography and offensive language. Today, it is the 10th most banned book in the United States, according to the American Library Association.
Still, The Bluest Eye remains one of the most popular American novels of all time and is used to teach high school and college students of all backgrounds.
“Heavy: An American Memoir” by Kiese Laymon
Heavy: An American Memoir is a bestseller by Kiese Laymon. In his memoir, Lemmon recounted his experiences with racism, weight, sex, writing, and “eventually gambling.” He also talked about his relationship with his mother and grandmother, both of which had a huge impact on his life. The result is a powerful personal memoir that has received many positive reviews from many heavyweights in the industry.
But unfortunately, some readers found “Heavy” more objectionable than anything, calling its pornography obscene. A Missouri school district even banned the book and others, prompting two students to file a lawsuit to have the ban lifted.
Fortunately, the memoir has since received a number of recognitions and awards from prestigious publications such as The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly.
“Stamping: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
“Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” is a book about racism by authors Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. Touted as a “remix” of Kendi’s award-winning “Stamped From the Beginning” book, “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” breaks down the racial fabric of readers of all backgrounds. From the history of racist thought to how to examine our racial prejudice, this book is a masterpiece of explaining how race permeates our society.
The book received rave reviews and quickly became a New York Times bestseller. But even though many people enjoy reading, some do not, calling it divisive or selective storytelling. As a result, “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” was challenged and banned from certain classrooms and libraries.
But that didn’t stop Kendi. Instead, he continues to write stories for children and adults that they can read. He recently collaborated with another writer, Zora Neale Hurston, on a children’s picture book called “Magnolia”. The book, about a young indigenous African girl’s journey to freedom, has already earned an A+ rating from fans and critics.