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Banned Books Week 2023 and a Bookclub Invite

Curious about book banning and what Banned Books week is? Keep reading to learn more about Banned Books Week 2023 and how you can join our banned book club. 

banned books week 2023

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The past few years have seen an unparalleled number of books being banned or challenged. And what is really troublesome, is the uptick in the banning of books by and about Black people and queer people.  

It didn’t hit home to me until I went through my own bookshelves, and the bookshelves of my son to discover that a LOT of them had been challenged or banned at some point. So as Banned Books Week draws closer, I felt like a little education was needed because I understand that a lot of us don’t fully understand what is going on in school libraries and even public libraries all around the country. 

So welcome, book lovers, to Banned Books Week 2023.  

The theme for this year is “Let Freedom Read!” and will take place October 1-7. Beloved reading advocate Levar Burton will serve as the Honorary Chair. This is a time when the entire book community is united to celebrate the freedom to read and express ideas without censorship. 

So what is Banned Books Week?

Per the American Library Association: 

 “Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. 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 –- 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.” 

The History of Banned Books Week

 In response to a  sudden surge in book challenges and bans across the United States, in schools, bookstores and libraries, the American Library Association (ALA) and the American Booksellers Association, among others, recognized the danger of this trend and decided to take action.

In 1982, Banned Books Week was officially launched, serving as a platform to educate the public about the importance of the First Amendment and the freedom to read. Since then, it has grown into a nationwide celebration that draws national attention and promotes the open access to information.

Banned vs Challenged: What is the Difference:

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials.

While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.

Most Frequently Challenged Books This Year

Each year, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles a list of the most frequently challenged books. These are books that have faced attempts at removal or restriction from libraries, schools, and other public institutions. The list serves as a stark reminder that censorship remains a threat to our freedom of expression.

In 2022, the top 3 most challenged books, in order, were  “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson and “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison,   These works, along with others, have faced objections due to their content, often relating to issues such as sexual content, gender identity, or race.

What can I do to support Banned Books Week?

A: You can show your support by reading challenged or banned books, sharing information about the event on social media, attending local Banned Books Week events, and engaging in conversations about the value of free speech and equitable access to information.

One way you, my community can participate is to join me and my friends in our Banned Book Club. 

For this month, I have lifted the paywall for our book club and I am inviting EVERYONE to join us as we read the number 3 most Banned Book so far this year: The Bluest Eye By Toni Morrison.

 Nobel Prize Winner Toni Morrison’s Novels are a regular fixture on the American Library Association (ALA)’s annual list of the top 10 most challenged books. The Bluest Eye has appeared in 2006, 2013, 2014, 2020, 2021 and 2022( when it was #3). Beloved is on 2006 and 2012 lists and Song of Solomon ( my personal favorite)  has been repeatedly challenged in Colorado, Florida and Georgia for “inappropriate and “explicit’ material. 

Reasons cited for Banning and Challenging The Bluest Eye have included, “sexually explicit material,” “lots of graphic descriptions and lots of disturbing language,” and “an underlying socialist-communist agenda.” One complaint simply called it a “bad book.”

Emily Knox, author of Book Banning in 21st-Century America, says this of Morrison’s body of work: “What she tried to do is convey the trauma of the legacy of slavery to her readers. That is a violent legacy. Her books do not sugarcoat or use euphemisms. And that is actually what people have trouble with.”

So my friends, join us in reading this American classic. With our bookclub you get access to a reading guide for this book, and a live zoom discussion at the end of the month. Join here and pick the free version for this month only to have access to our bookclub.

To find out about this year’s events and activities in your area, check with your local libraries, bookstores, or schools. Many organizations, including libraries and independent bookstores, often host special events during Banned Books Week.

As we embark on this year’s celebration of Banned Books Week, let us remember that the freedom to read is a cornerstone of our democracy. It’s a time to honor the commitment of librarians, educators, and concerned citizens who defend our right to free access to diverse literature. So, let’s celebrate the freedom to read and “Let Freedom Read” during Banned Books Week 2023!

In Other Book news…

The censorship of Black authors is nothing new.

For years, books by Black authors have been targeted for censorship, and repression, and banned in school districts and school libraries across the country. This censorship is usually fueled by religious or political beliefs and even parents’ needs to “protect ” their children from things they deem not age appropriate.

But when we remove these books from our libraries and lists, we don’t expand our children’s views or have conversations about lives and thoughts that are unlike their own.

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