Feature: Books Unite Us. Honoring Banned Books Week
It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years since Banned Books Week launched. During the Reagan era, of course, due to an increased call for libraries and schools to ban certain titles. It’s disappointing and frustrating that we still experience book bans, though not surprising considering the current political climate.
2021 Top Challenged books
- Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to have sexually explicit images
- Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and profanity and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted for depictions of abuse and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity and violence and because it was thought to promote an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and use of a derogatory term
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and degrading to women
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Banned and challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit
- This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson
Reasons: Banned, challenged, relocated, and restricted for providing sex education and LGBTQIA+ content
- Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin
Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
Banned Books Week continues the call against censorship and celebrates that, though challenged, the titles remain available. Through the years, most of the challenged books are by and about the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ populations. It’s never been about “saving the children” but about shutting down the voices challengers feel threatened by.
The ALA reports this is a record year for book challenges. Wellington, a community of 6,000 residents here in Colorado, recently went through extremists attempting to ban books at the local library. Instead, the town board adopted a resolution against banning books. Essentially, they banned banning books. Go Wellington!
This year, we honor and celebrate with some titles from Candlewick Press. Many thanks for sending the following stories, which I will host in my Little Free Library in an effort to get them out in my community. We know books bring communities together, despite efforts to divide us. Check out the titles below and add your favorite banned books in the comments of this post. If white Nationalist terrorists are trying to get rid of them, they must be worth reading!
2021 Banned Book Highlights
Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin
Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta, a Stonewall Honor Book, has been challenged since 2016 LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit. You should read it because it’s real stories from trans and non-binary teens.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Outby Susan Kuklin
Published by: Candlewick Press
on February 11, 2014
A groundbreaking work of LGBT literature takes an honest look at the life, love, and struggles of transgender teens.
Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.
It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley
Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley’s It’s Perfectly Normal has been challenged for over 20 years but perseveres as a non-fiction resource for changing bodies, growing up, and sexual health. Gift this to all your upper elementary and middle school kids!
It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, Gender, and Sexual Healthby Robie H. Harris, Michael Emberley
Published by: Candlewick Press, Candlewick
on May 18, 2021
When children wonder about sex, where will they go for the answers? Providing accurate, lucid, unbiased answers to nearly every conceivable question children may have about sexuality, IT'S PERFECTLY NORMAL is here to help. From conception and puberty to birth control and AIDS, it is a refreshingly open and thorough presentation of the facts of sex--both biological and psychological--which children need now more than ever. Throughout, two cartoon characters, a curious bird, and a squeamish bee reflect the diverse feelings children often have about sex. Packed with warm, age-appropriate illustrations, often humorous but always scientifically correct, IT'S PERFECTLY NORMAL offers children the reassurance that the changes and emotions they experience while growing up are perfectly normal.
Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Jessica Love’s Julian is a Mermaid has been challenged for its LGBTQIA+ content, but it was a hit in my LFL. I couldn’t keep copies in there.
Julián Is a Mermaid (Julián, #1)by Jessica Love
Published by: Candlewick
on May 22, 2018
In an exuberant picture book, a glimpse of costumed mermaids leaves one boy flooded with wonder and ready to dazzle the world.
While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he's seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a periwinkle curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes—and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself? Mesmerizing and full of heart, Jessica Love's author-illustrator debut is a jubilant picture of self-love and a radiant celebration of individuality.
Bonus picks: If you want to read a book about censorship, AS King and David Levithan have you covered!
Answers in the Pagesby David Levithan
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
on May 10, 2022
Genres: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Middle Grade
A bold, timely novel about speaking up and coming out as parents lobby to ban a beloved book from the school curriculum by New York Times-bestselling author David Levithan.
When Donovan left his copy of The Adventurers on the kitchen counter, he didn't think his mom would read it--much less have a problem with it. It's just an adventure novel about two characters trying to stop an evil genius...right?
But soon the entire town is freaking out about whether the book's main characters are gay, Donovan's mom is trying to get the book removed from the school curriculum, and Donovan is caught in the middle.
Donovan doesn't really know if the two boys fall in love at the end or not--but he does know this: even if they do, it shouldn't matter. The book should not be banned from school.
Interweaving three connected storylines, David Levithan delivers a bold, fun, and timely story about taking action (whether it's against book censors or deadly alligators...), being brave, and standing up for what's right.
Attack of the Black Rectanglesby Amy Sarig King
Published by: Scholastic Press
on September 6, 2022
Genres: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Middle Grade
Award-winning author Amy Sarig King takes on censorship and intolerance in a novel she was born to write.
Everyone in town knows and fears Ms. Laura Samuel Sett. She is the town watchdog, always on the lookout for unsavory words and the unsavory people who use them.
She is also Mac's sixth-grade teacher.
Mac and his friends are outraged when they discovered that their class copies of Jane Yolen's THE DEVIL'S ARITHMETIC have certain works blacked out. Mac has been raised by his mom and grandad to call out things that are wrong, so he and his friends head to the principal's office to protest the censorship. Her response isn't reassuring -- so the protest grows.
In ATTACK OF THE BLACK RECTANGLES, acclaimed author A.S. King shows all the ways truth can be hard... but still worth fighting for.
Be sure to check out the Banned Books Week website for tons of resources for honoring and celebrating this week!