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Banned Books Week 2022

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • September 15, 2022

What is Banned Books Week?

Launched by the American Library Association (ALA) in 1982, Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating "the freedom to read." The event is designed to draw attention to books that have been banned or challenged throughout the country. These sorts of challenges have been on the rise in recent years. The ALA reported that in 2021, it tracked 729 challenges in libraries, schools, and universities, resulting in 1,597 individual book challenges or removals—many of them by Black or LGBTQ authors and featuring BIPOC or queer characters. You can see the ALA's latest list of 2021's ten most challenged books here.

    Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.

    The theme of this year's event focuses on the ways that books unite us, while censorship divides us. By shining a light on the rise of censorship in schools and libraries around the country, the ALA hopes to bring together the entire book community—librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers—to defend free and open access to information.

    You can stand against literary censorship (and expand your reading list!) by participating in the ALA's one-year reading challenge. Read These Banned Books offers 52 must-reads, all banned or challenged books from Lolita to Maus to The Hunger Games. The beautiful book includes ALA's insights into each title as well as a reading journal with writing prompts for further reflection.

    The Most Commonly Banned Books

    The list of books that have repeatedly been banned or challenged throughout history is quite surprising. You may notice that many of these iconic titles were required reading in your high-school or college literature classes. Just imagine if the efforts to suppress access to these classic reads had been successful!

    • 1984 by George Orwell: The dystopian tale has been criticized for pro-communism ideas and sexuality.
    • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain: Challenged for racism, this brilliant 19th-century novel sings with authenticity, social commentary, and humor.
    • The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger: Holden Caulfield's cynical, rebellious misadventures were flagged for offensive language.
    • The Color Purple by Alice Walker: The Pulitzer Prize-winning story of Black women living in early twentieth-century Georgia has been called too sexually explicit.
    • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Challenged for references to drugs, sexuality, and profanity, the quintessential novel of the Jazz Age has been celebrated by generations of readers.
    • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou: The celebrated poet's luminous debut memoir has faced challenges over content related to sexual assault.
    • Lord of the Flies by William Golding: The provocative story about a group of boys marooned on an island has been challenged for sexual content, racial slurs, and excessive violence.
    • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck: Flagged for offensive language, racism, and violence, this gripping tale of friendship and tragedy captures the hardscrabble days of the Great Depression.
    • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey: The unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants has been been subject to criticism for misogyny and sexual content.
    • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: One of the most beloved books of all time, this Pulitzer Prize-winning coming-of-age tale has been challenged for offensive language and content related to racism.
    • Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe: An award-winning graphic memoir about the author's experience of being nonbinary and asexual. Objections were made to the LGBTQ content, as well as sexual content.
    • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: A bestselling novel about a Black teen who struggles with grief and anger after witnessing her friend being shot and killed during a police stop. Objections cite profanity and violence, as well as the perception that it is promoting an anti-police agenda.
    • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: The Nobel and Pulitzer-winner's debut novel centers on a young Black girl who longs to be white. Objections were made to the depiction of child sexual abuse.

    It is so important to protect access to the fullest range of literature and art. Here at Thriftbooks, we stand against literary censorship and we invite you to join us.

    Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to connect with a community of readers, catch up on literary news, and get book recommendations.

    Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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