What is banned book week?
Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. 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. The week highlights the value of free and open access to information and fosters collaboration with 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. Banned Books Week is September 22 – 28, 2019!
For a full list of banned books, check out Banned Week website.
Why it matters?
When books are taken out of circulation, those stories are censored. The act of censorship can often prevent or silence marginalized voices. Censoring stories of pride, empowerment, suffering, or even love limits the expansiveness and healing reading can have on a community for the sake of comfort. I recognize some stories can be hurtful, but I think in this capacity dialogue or identifying counter stories can be a more constructive approach. Thankfully a coalition of librarian and teachers are working together to identify and challenge books that end up on the list. With that being said I’ve provided 3 contemporary stories that are on the Banned Books list. If you haven’t read them, I would challenge you to pick one (or all of them up).
Synopsis: Starr Carter is constantly switching between two worlds — the poor, mostly black neighborhood where she lives and the wealthy, mostly white prep school that she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is soon shattered when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend at the hands of a police officer. Facing pressure from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and decide to stand up for what’s right.
Why I love this book? A hard hitting YA that showcases the impact police violence can have on a community. T.H.U.G. focuses on Starr’s connection to two different worlds and how she navigates both can have lasting effects on her relationships. She doesn’t have a choice to split her identity between the communities any longer and has to fully confront the death of her childhood friend. My guess is T.H.U.G. ended up on the list because it confronts police violence and the #BlackLivesMatter movement; if this is the case, then there’s serious problems with when fiction replicates real life. Readers should be uncomfortable. This story’s central arc is about humanity and who gets to enjoy it or not.
Synopsis: The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero.
Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous – it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Few other books in our time have touched so many readers.
Why I love this book? This collection of stories made me cry (which isn’t hard at all). I loved how Cordero writes the complexity and nuance stories of growing up as a girl of color. We don’t get to just be girls, we often are poked and prodded, ostracized, and when we are finally broken, we are asked WHY? Each vignette is a message of survival, determination, resilience, and the desire to love and be loved. But doesn’t sugar coat the violence that often time occurs.
March (graphic novel)
Synopsis: Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.
Why I love this book? This graphic novel is a counter to revisionist history. It’s a reminder of the fight Black Americans endured so that we could enjoy civil liberties. It’s not a history lesson, but a lesson of community, hope, and persistence. How did Congressman Lewis find the courage to participate in what seemed at the time an endless fight? You have to read about it in the series.
While I’ve only given 3 recommendations, the Banned Book list is updated each year. So the list grows longer and longer with each publication year. Exercise your right to read diverse stories by checking out the list and supporting these stories.
Lynell a.ka. Weekend Reader
Bio: Lynell a.k.a. Weekend Reader is a blogger, reader, reviewer who thinks the perfect Saturday is reading and drinking iced coffee. She loves to give her thoughts on contemporary fiction, romance, and murder mystery/suspense to anyone who will listen. Lynell also loves to collect and gift unique bookmarks to friends and family.