banned books week 2021

Williamsport, Pa. -- In turbulent times, books are tools that help people navigate the world around them. Intellectual freedom and access to information uplift people in crisis and during more peaceful times, so the James V. Brown Library invites you to champion the right to read during Banned Books Week from Sept. 26 through Oct. 2.

Banned Books Week is the most important opportunity during the year for advocates — publishers, booksellers, librarians, educators, journalists, and readers — to explain why we must defend everyone’s right to choose what they want to read and view.

Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

The theme of this year’s event is “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.”

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. The American Library Association (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles lists of challenged books as reported in the media and submitted by librarians and teachers across the country.

The Top 10 Challenged Books of 2020 are:

  • George by Alex Gino. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote antipolice views.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. 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. Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes and their negative effect on students.
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Challenged for profanity, and because it was thought to promote an antipolice message.

Celebrate your freedom to read by reading a banned book today! 


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