Tag: book bans

Strong Finish for Banned Books Week with Friday and Saturday Events

Banned Books Week is drawing to close, but there are still plenty of ways to engage! Don’t miss events bestselling authors Jennifer Niven (All the Bright Places, Breathless), George M. Johnson (All Boys Aren’t Blue), Kyle Lukoff (When Aidan Became a Brother, Too Bright to See), and more! Keep reading…

For a complete event listing, please visit our events calendar here.

Friday Featured Events

A Conversation with Author Jennifer Niven

Virtual Event • 12:00 p.m. CDT
Organized by ALA OIF

Join New York Times-bestselling author Jennifer Niven for a conversation about censorship and the implications for teens and the communities where book bans happen. Niven is the award-winning author of eleven books, including YA novels All the Bright Places, Holding up the Universe, Breathless, and Take Me With You When You Go (with David Levithan). … Read More

Banned Books Bingo

Virtual Event • 3:00 p.m. EDT
Organized by American Booksellers Association

On September 12, at 3 p.m. ET, you are invited to join host Drag Queen Nebuer Styles for Banned Books Bingo. The Banned Books Bingo game card is available in ABA’s Banned Books Week digital assets. This virtual bingo game will not only be a lot of fun but it will also provide a blueprint … Read More

Author Talk: George M. Johnson All Boys Aren’t Blue

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library 901 G St NW, Washington, DC • 7:00 p.m EDT
Organized by DC Public Library

In recognition of Banned Books Week, DC Public Library welcomes George M. Johnson, award-winning author of “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and “We Are Not Broken.” The DC Public Library is thrilled to host author and activist George M. Johnson, honorary chair of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week initiative. Johnson’s memoir “All Boys Aren’t Blue” has become … Read More

Saturday Featured Events

Let’s Get Organized: Fighting Book Bans Together

Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library 901 G St NW, Washington, DC • 1:00 p.m. EDT
Organized by PEN America

For Banned Books Week, National Book Award–honored author Kyle Lukoff (Too Bright to See, 2021 Young People’s Literature Finalist), DC Public Library Teen Services Coordinator Joanna Harris, and Managing Director of PEN America Washington and Free Expression Programs Nadine Farid Johnson sit down to discuss the value of writing, publishing, and access to diverse books, and how we can come together and unite … Read More

The Battle for the Right to Read What You Want

Brooklyn Public Library 10 Grand Army Plz, Brooklyn, NY • 4:00 p.m. EDT
Organized by Brooklyn Public Library

Last month Summer Boismier, a high school English teacher in Norman, Oklahoma, lost her job when she provided students with the QR Code to Brooklyn Public Library’s “Books Unbanned” initiative, which gives out-of-state teens access to the Library’s eBook collection, including books that might be banned where they live. Boismier’s story went viral and became … Read More

Celebrating Black Gay Literature Amidst a Wave of Book Bans

Source Booksellers 4240 Cass Avenue, Unit 105, Detroit, MI • 6:00 p.m. EDT
Organized by PEN Ameerica

Join PEN America Detroit for a Banned Book Week in-person discussion on the anti-Blackness and homophobia inherent in the slate of book bans around the country. This conversation will offer strategies on how to push back against the recent book bans, while also offering a space to celebrate black gay literature in all of its permutations. Moderated … Read More

It’s Your Right to Read!

Banned Books Week offers an opportunity for readers to voice censorship concerns, celebrate free expression and show their communities the importance of intellectual freedom. The Banned Books Week Coalition partnered with HarperCollins Childrens BooksLittle Free Library, and Bookshop.org on resources to help people know their rightsreport censorship, and get involved. Check them out the resources here.

Download a full PDF of the new resource here.

Full Steam Ahead for Thursday Banned Books Week Programming!

Banned Books Week may be drawing to a close in a couple days, but we’re not slowing down! Thursday is packed with amazing programming, from our Facebook Live with censored comics creators Maia Kobabe and Mike Curato to a slew of virtual and in-person events that focus on strategies for fighting censorship. Keep reading!

For a complete event listing, please visit our events calendar here.

Banned Books Week Coalition Events

The Censorship of LGBTQ+ Comic Books with Maia Kobabe and Mike Curato

Virtual Event • 5:00 p.m. EDT

Comic books have been targeted by censors for decades, from 1954 Senate subcommittee hearings about their alleged link to juvenile delinquency, to the implementation of a content code that nearly destroyed the industry, to today’s widespread attacks on comics, especially those that share the stories of LGBTQ+ individuals. Join the creators of two of today’s … Read More

Featured Events

Practical Strategies for Defending Books in Your Library

Virtual Event • 12:00 p.m. CDT
Organized by ALA OIF

How would you handle an attempt to censor books in your library? In this program, we’ll use ripped-from-the-headlines scenarios as discussion prompts to provide practical strategies and resources that librarians can use to inform their defense of challenged materials. The conversation will be lead by librarians from a variety of backgrounds: Moni Barrette (President, Graphic … Read More

Books on the Chopping Block

DePaul University Library 2350 N. Kenmore Ave., Chicago, IL • 2:00 p.m. CDT
Organized by City Lit Theater

FREE readings around Chicago and Chicago suburbs.  Various venues.  See website for full list of events. Books on the Chopping Block is our annual 60-minute performance of dramatic readings of short excerpts taken from these books. City Lit has teamed up with the ALA in celebration of Banned Books Week since 2006, performing at special … Read More

Free Banned Books Week Event With Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and Rep. Cori Bush

Busboys and Poets (Anacostia) 2004 Martin Luther King Junior Avenue Southeast, Washington DC • 6:00 p.m. EDT
Organized by The Emancipator

The Emancipator and Busboys and Poets invite you to an in-person conversation with Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and Rep. Cori Bush to commemorate Banned Books Week. Come out for a lively discussion on the implications of book bans, as well as the growing embrace of censorship of all kinds in political rhetoric on Capitol Hill, … Read More

Free Speech & Banned Books: A Conversation with Azar Nafisi

Utah Museum of Fine Arts 410 Campus Center Drive, Salt Lake City, UT • 4:00 p.m. MDT
Organized by PEN America

PEN America Utah, the Tanner Humanities Center at the University of Utah, and author Azar Nafisi are partnering for an in-person conversation at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts on Thursday, September 22 that will explore the role Humanities and Liberal Arts play in the preservation of democracy. This unscripted discussion will draw upon Nafisi’s own … Read More

This Story Matters: An Intellectual Freedom Discussion with NCTE Affiliates

Virtual Event • 7:00 P.M. EDT
Organized by NCTE

As the school year begins, teachers and students are facing challenges to their intellectual freedom like never before. From state legislation to executive orders to school district policies to administrator actions, book bans are at an all-time high, and teacher shortages are affecting every corner of the nation. But as an ELA educator, you do … Read More

FREEDOM TO READ: Fighting Book Banning and Censorship in Our Libraries with Deborah Caldwell-Stone and Bridget Quinn

Virtual Event • 8:00 p.m. EDT

In observance of Banned Book Week, MTH&M and Hartford Public Library present a virtual conversation between Deborah Caldwell-Stone, executive director of the Freedom to Read Foundation, and the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, and Hartford Public Library CEO Bridget Quinn. Presented in partnership with the Unite Against Book Bans campaign.  Upon its publication in 1885, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was immediately banned … Read More

Intellectual Freedom & You: A Banned Books Week Webinar

Virtual Event • 7:00 p.m. CDT

Book bans are on the rise across the country as states seemingly compete to see who can place the most restrictions on free speech. As this latest wave of censorship activity continues to build, what is your role as a library user? In this interactive webinar during Banned Books Week, you’ll learn about why intellectual freedom … Read More

From Howl to Now: Book Bans in the US

Virtual Event • 6:00 p.m. PDT
Organized by PEN America

City Lights in conjunction with PEN America present FROM HOWL TO NOW: BOOK BANS IN THE U.S. Moderated by Ipek Burnett with appearances by Marcus Ewert, Justin Hall, Dr. Jewell Parker Rhodes and Dashka Slater During Banned Books Week, PEN America and Bay Area authors come together to discuss the alarming rise in book bans … Read More

It’s Your Right to Read!

Banned Books Week offers an opportunity for readers to voice censorship concerns, celebrate free expression and show their communities the importance of intellectual freedom. The Banned Books Week Coalition partnered with HarperCollins Childrens BooksLittle Free Library, and Bookshop.org on resources to help people know their rightsreport censorship, and get involved. Check them out the resources here.

Download a full PDF of the new resource here.

Literary Stars Align for Wednesday Banned Books Week Programs!

We’re halfway through Banned Books Week, and the stars are bright in today’s events! The Banned Books Week Coalition is honored to host Angie Thomas and Jerry Craft for a Facebook livestream; Banned Books Week Honorary Chair George M. Johnson moderates an event on LGBTQ+ censorship; Banned Books Week Youth Honorary Chair Cameron Samuels joins other community organizers to talk about their experiences fighting book bans; Booklist hosts a conversation with Nikole Hannah-Jones, Renée Watson, Kim Johnson, and Kyle Lukoff; and Ali Velshi will moderate a panel with author Laurie Halse Anderson and others. And there’s so much more going on!

For a complete event listing, please visit our events calendar here.

Banned Books Week Coalition Events

A Conversation About Banned Books with Angie Thomas and Jerry Craft

Virtual Event • 6:00 p.m. EDT

Join New York Times bestselling authors Angie Thomas (The Hate U GiveOn the Come UpConcrete Rose) and Jerry Craft (New KidClass Act) for a conversation about the censorship of books dealing with racial identity and racism. The authors will discuss the censorship of their work and the implications for readers, authors, and the community. They will be joined by Jeremy C. Young, Senior … Read More

Featured Events

Breaking Bans: A Celebration of Challenged Books

Virtual Event • 2:00 p.m EDT
Organized by Booklist

Join Penguin Random House and Booklist for a special Banned Books Week event to hear from authors Nikole Hannah-Jones (The 1619 Project), Renée Watson (The 1619 Project: Born on the Water), Kim Johnson (This is My America), and Kyle Lukoff (Different Kinds of Fruit and Too Bright to See), who have all experienced first-hand having … Read More

Books on the Chopping Block! Banned Books Week Performance

John T Richardson Library 2350 North Kenmore Avenue, Chicago, IL • 1:00 p.m. CDT
Organized by City Lit Theater

The DePaul University Library welcomes City Lit Theater for Books on the Chopping Block! a performance of selections from the most frequently banned and challenged books of 2021. Q&A with the performers to follow. This is a hybrid event, open to the DePaul University community and our neighbors. Join us via Zoom or in person … Read More

How to Fight Book Bans in Your Community

Virtual Event • 1:30 p.m. CDT
Organized by ALA OIF

New day, new censorship! Attempts to remove books from school and public libraries are on the rise, leaving many librarians and members of the communities they support with a sense of powerlessness. But you are not alone! Learn about ways you can support libraries and combat censorship from experienced activists who have been defending the … Read More

Restricted Access: The American History of Book Banning

New York Public Library: Celeste Bartos Forum 476 Fifth Ave, New York, NY • 6:00 p.m. EDT
Organized by PEN America

Censorship and book bans are nothing new in American life. In the 19th century, it was the federal Comstock laws barring the delivery and distribution of “every obscene, lewd, or lascivious” book. Today, books that highlight race, gender, or sexuality are being yanked from public shelves around the country. Join PEN America and the New … Read More

Resisting Censorship in Austin – A Community Reading of Banned Books

Spider House Ballroom 2908 Fruth St, Austin, TX • 6:00 pm CDT
Organized by PEN America

Join PEN Austin as we celebrate the right to read during Banned Book Week 2022 with a community reading of banned books. There has been a deluge of book bans in Texas. PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans has listed 1,586 instances of individual books being banned within a nine-month period, 712 from the state of Texas alone; … Read More

Claiming Our Stories: LGBTQ Book Bans in America

Virtual Event • 7:30 p.m. EDT
Organized by GLAAD and The Emancipator

Amidst the growing threat of LGBTQ book bans nationwide, The Emancipator and GLAAD are teaming up to present a virtual Banned Books Week event at 7:30 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Sept. 21, featuring some of the nation’s best known LGBTQ authors and illustrators. The dialogue will be moderated by Banned Books Week Honorary Chair George M. Johnson, … Read More

Banned Books and Body Autonomy in Birmingham

Burdock Book Collective 4413 5th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL • 6:30 p.m. CDT
Organized by PEN America

Join PEN Birmingham for an intimate conversation centering the issue of restrictive book bans targeting women, queer, trans and intersex people in an era of increasing threats to body autonomy. In Alabama, sex education is not currently mandated, and schools that do teach sex education must emphasize abstinence. Books that offer perspectives of LGBTQ+ people are routinely … Read More

Virtual Event: Defending LGBTQ Literature in Oklahoma

Virtual Event • 7:00 pm CDT
Organized by PEN America

Join PEN Tulsa for a virtual conversation addressing the homophobia and transphobia embedded in the recent wave of book bans in Oklahoma and across the country. Moderated by Tulsa-based writer and publisher Ryan Fitzgibbon, the conversation will feature celebrated author and illustrator Mike Curato and PEN Across America Director Program William Johnson. This conversation will offer strategies on how to push back against … Read More

It’s Your Right to Read!

Banned Books Week offers an opportunity for readers to voice censorship concerns, celebrate free expression and show their communities the importance of intellectual freedom. The Banned Books Week Coalition partnered with HarperCollins Childrens BooksLittle Free Library, and Bookshop.org on resources to help people know their rightsreport censorship, and get involved. Check them out the resources here.

Download a full PDF of the new resource here.

Don’t Miss These Banned Books Week Coalition Facebook Live Events!

Banned Books is almost here! Banned Books Week officially kicks off on Sunday, and we’re excited to have an amazing lineup of Facebook livestreams to mark the week! Check them out!

All events are free — simply join the Banned Books Week Facebook page at the appointed hour! These are a great opportunity to engage your students or patrons in Banned Books Week programming, and each event will feature a short Q&A.

Youth Honorary Chair Cameron Samuels Leads a Conversation on Youth Activism

Monday, September 19, 6:00 p.m. EDT

What is it like to be the only teen protesting censorship at school board meetings? How do you go from being the only voice of opposition to leading the fight against censorship in your community – and inspiring others to do the same? In this program, Banned Books Week Honorary Chair Cameron Samuels (they/them) will lead a conversation with youth activists from around the United States. These inspiring young leaders will talk about their experiences and share their ideas for how others can get involved! More info…

Banned Books Week Honorary Chair George M. Johnson’s Moment in the Spotlight

Tuesday, September 20, 1:00 p.m. EDT

Join Banned Books Week Honorary Chair George M. Johnson for an intimate conversation about censorship and how it impacts readers, especially young adults. Johnson will discuss the censorship of their critically acclaimed bestselling novel All Boys Aren’t Blue, which was the third title on the American Library Association’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2021, and the ongoing attacks on books and information related to LGBTQ+ identity. This one-on-one conversation will be led by Freedom to Read Foundation President and librarian Peter Coyl and include a short Q&A. More info…

Angie Thomas and Jerry Craft Get Real About Censorship

Wednesday, September 21, 6:00 p.m. EDT

Join New York Times bestselling authors Angie Thomas (The Hate U GiveOn the Come UpConcrete Rose) and Jerry Craft (New KidClass Act) for a conversation about the censorship of books dealing with racial identity and racism. The authors will discuss the censorship of their work and the implications for readers, authors, and the community. They will be joined by Jeremy C. Young, Senior Manager of Free Expression and Education at PEN America, who will offer perspective on how legislation is impacting and even fueling censorship. The program will be moderated by Amber Payne Co-Editor in Chief for The Emancipator, a digital commentary platform born from a collaboration between The Boston Globe and Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research.

Event made possible with the support of HarperCollins Publishers. More info…

Maia Kobabe and Mike Curato Explain Why LGBTQ+ Comics Belong in Schools and Libraries

Thursday, September 22, 5:00 p.m. EDT

Comic books have been targeted by censors for decades, from 1954 Senate subcommittee hearings about their alleged link to juvenile delinquency, to the implementation of a content code that nearly destroyed the industry, to today’s widespread attacks on comics, especially those that share the stories of LGBTQ+ individuals. Join the creators of two of today’s most acclaimed and frequently censored graphic novels — Maia Kobabe (Gender Queer) and Mike Curato (Flamer) — for a conversation about the attempts to censor their work and LGBTQ+ stories. Greg Rokisky, Senior Manager of Digital Strategy at PFLAG National, and Jordan Smith, Digital Editor at Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, will lead the conversation. More info…

Can’t make it live? We have you covered! All events will be recorded and released on the Banned Books Week YouTube channel after Banned Books Week.

The individual members of the Banned Books Week Coalition are also hosting events throughout the week! We’ll have a rundown for you before it kicks off, and you can find them in the Banned Books Week events calendar here. (Hint: Look for the Featured events!)


Banned Books Week is the annual celebration of the freedom to read. The event is sponsored by a coalition of organizations dedicated to free expression, including American Booksellers for Free Expression, American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Amnesty International USA, Association of University Presses, Authors Guild, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), Freedom to Read Foundation, GLAAD, Index on Censorship, National Book Foundation, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Council of Teachers of English, PEN America, People For the American Way Foundation, PFLAG, and Project Censored. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Banned Books Week also receives generous support from HarperCollins Publishers and Penguin Random House.

PORTUGAL. THE MAN, Live with Banned Books Week & NCAC!

Join the Banned Books Week Coalition and the National Coalition Against Censorship at 6:00 p.m. EDT, September 29, for an exclusive Facebook Live event with Grammy Award-winning musicians and free expression heroes Portugal. The Man! The event celebrates Banned Books Week, which takes place September 23 – October 3, 2020, and will broadcast live on the NCAC Facebook page

In early 2020, Portugal. The Man joined the protest when the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough School Board, which oversees schools in the band’s hometown of Wasilla, Alaska, voted to remove five classic novels — I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien — from the 11th grade reading list. Through their charitable non-profit, PTM Foundation, Portugal. The Man helped provide thousands of copies of the banned books to students in the district.

During this hourlong livestream, we’ll talk with Portugal. The Man about why they took action, the role of communities in fighting censorship, and the importance of access to information. We’ll close with a short Q&A. The event will be moderated by Nora Pelizzari (Director of Communications, NCAC) and Betsy Gomez (Coordinator, Banned Books Week Coalition).

How will this work?

  1. Make sure you like the National Coalition Against Censorship on Facebook.
  2. At 6:00 p.m. EDT on September 29, go to Facebook and look at the News Feed.
  3. Click Watch in the Navigation Panel on the left. (Click See More if you don’t see Watch in the list.)
  4. After clicking Watch, click Live in the Navigation Panel on the left.

You can also go directly to facebook.com/live to access Facebook livestreams or the video section of NCAC’s Facebook page to access the event.

About PORTUGAL. THE MAN

Portugal. The Man took 2017 by the horns after a considerably long gap between records. They spent years working on an album called Gloomin + Doomin before later developing what would become known as their latest studio album WOODSTOCK. Fate struck lead singer John Gourley twice. First, John got some parental tough love from his old man. “What’s taking so long to finish the album?” John’s dad asked. “Isn’t that what bands do? Write songs and then put them out?” The whole thing got John thinking about why the band seemed to be stuck on a musical elliptical machine from hell and more importantly, about how to get off of it. Second, John found his dad’s ticket stub from the original 1969 Woodstock music festival, which ultimately knocked something loose in his head. He realized that, in the same tradition of bands from that era, Portugal. The Man needed to speak out about the world crumbling around them.

With these two ideas converging, the band made a seemingly bat-shit-crazy decision: they took all of the work they had done for the three years prior and threw it out. The band went back to the studio — working with John Hill, Danger Mouse and longtime collaborator Casey Bates. In this new-found creative territory, the album that became WOODSTOCK rolled out naturally from there. Fast forward to present day and it was impossible to escape the album’s first single, “Feel It Still,” which dominated the charts and radio airwaves in 2017. The 4X Platinum Certified hit reigned at #1 at nearly all radio formats, including Top 40, as well as Alternative, where the song held the chart’s top spot for a mind-blowing 20 weeks, breaking the record for most weeks at #1. Yes, you read that right. Five guys from Wasilla, Alaska, who have played nearly 1,500 shows in their career, broke Alternative radio records and had a #1 song at Pop radio. Billboard Magazine even went as far as to call the song “the unexpected rock crossover hit of 2017,” while Rolling Stone listed it as “one of the best songs of 2017.” AND THEN…the band kicked off 2018 by winning a GRAMMY Award for “Feel It Still.”

About the PTM Foundation

PTM Foundation is focused on building community resilience, empathy, and awareness through music, stories, art, education and connectivity. They aim to convene and organize partnerships and projects informed by community need, then mobilize Portugal. The Man’s listeners and supporters around that shared vision.

While their advocacy, philanthropy, and community engagement work is primarily centered around universal issues related to human rights, community health, and the environment, this organization puts a specific focus on highlighting the stories of Indigenous Peoples, and they are committed to helping bring these sacred voices — often the most informed, yet silenced among us — to the forefront.

About the National Coalition Against Censorship

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) promotes freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression and opposes censorship in all its forms. Since 1974, NCAC has engaged in direct advocacy, education, research and analysis to support the principles of the First Amendment. A coalition of over 50 national non-profits, NCAC’s alliance includes literary, artistic, education, and civil liberties groups. NCAC is national in scope, but often local in their approach, engaging with a nationwide network of advocates and supporting local activism. NCAC works with community members to resolve censorship controversies without the need for litigation.

About the Banned Books Week Coalition

The Banned Books Week Coalition is an international alliance of diverse organizations joined by a commitment to increase awareness of the annual celebration of the freedom to read. The Coalition seeks to engage various communities and inspire participation in Banned Books Week through education, advocacy, and the creation of programming about the problem of book censorship. 

The Banned Books Week Coalition includes American Booksellers Association; American Library Association; American Society of Journalists and Authors; Association of University Presses; Authors Guild; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE); Freedom to Read Foundation; Index on Censorship; National Coalition Against Censorship; National Council of Teachers of English; PEN America; People For the American Way Foundation; and Project Censored. It is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Banned Books Week also receives generous support from DKT Liberty Project and Penguin Random House.

PEN America Examines Book Bans in U.S. Prisons

In a new policy paper, the literary and human rights organization PEN America showcases the impact of the nation’s most pernicious book ban: the system of restrictions that exist across U.S. prisons, jails, and other incarceration settings. Some 2.2 million people are currently incarcerated across the country.  Against that backdrop, Literature Locked Up: How Prison Book Restriction Policies Constitute the Nation’s Largest Book Ban details the types of book bans prisoners face, the arbitrariness with which they are implemented, and the lack of transparency and oversight that leads to bans on titles from Nobel Prize winners and leading historical figures. The publication of this paper comes amid PEN America’s Literature Locked Up initiative for Banned Books Week 2019.

“This year, as the country focuses on unfair and arbitrary book bans nationwide, we wanted to focus on the pernicious ban on books in the nation’s prisons,” said James Tager, author of the report and PEN America’s deputy director of free expression policy and research. “Literature offers a lifeline for incarcerated people in the midst of a dehumanizing system. We should be promoting access to literature in our prisons. Instead, our policies today are arbitrary, irrational, and at times needlessly cruel. We urgently need a course correction that upholds the right to read behind bars.”

Among the paper’s highlights:

  • PEN America reports that literature on race and civil rights is disproportionately subject to bans, often on the grounds that such texts threaten to disrupt a prison’s social order. Often entire categories of books are banned, and these often reflect discriminatory approaches to regulation.
  • PEN America also found that review mechanisms fail to offer meaningful oversight over these bans. While the U.S. Supreme Court has established that prisons must provide some form of administrative appeal process, there is no requirement that such reviewers are independent of the prison system, nor are there any criteria regarding reviewers’ qualifications.
  • PEN America also explores how in addition to content-specific bans, prison systems have enacted wholesale restrictions on book deliveries, such as requiring purchases come only through “secure vendors,” as well as shutdowns on book donations and deliveries writ large. PEN America finds that these “content-neutral bans” have the effect of banning potentially thousands of titles by significantly limiting the range of books available to people who are incarcerated.

While no comprehensive list exists of all books banned in jails and prisons within the U.S., tens of thousands of titles are banned outright based on outmoded or misguided attempts to regulate behavior. The carceral system in Texas, for example, has reportedly banned more than 10,000 titles, including Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. But perhaps more insidious, the paper finds that bans are often ad hoc, purely at the discretion of mailroom employees or corrections officers who happen to be on duty, constituting a wider and more arbitrary landscape of restrictions that is often invisible to the public.

“Because these book bans are rarely reviewable and seldom overturned voluntarily, the only recourse incarcerated people have is public outrage,” said PEN America’s Tager. “Every time book bans are overturned, it’s because people on the inside and advocates on the outside have urged prison systems to make changes. But the system is opaque and banned book lists are unavailable. We can’t rely on public outrage alone to ensure that the rights of people in prison aren’t routinely violated. That practice has to end.”

PEN America recommends that prison systems follow the American Library Association’s Prisoners’ Right to Read – Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights principles as a guide. PEN America also urges state and federal officials to implement periodic review of book restriction policies; develop clear and non-discriminatory policies governing such restrictions; encourage prison authorities to consider the educational, literary, and rehabilitative merit of texts; make any banned book list available and accessible; and most crucially, enact meaningful review policies.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. PEN America is a member of the Banned Books Week Coalition.

PEN is hosting a Literature Locked Up event today:

BANNED BOOKS WEEK 2019: LITERATURE LOCKED UP BANNED BOOK READING AND PUBLIC DISCUSSION

Scuppernong Books, Greensboro, NC • 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm EDT

Join Scuppernong Books on Tuesday, September 24 to celebrate banned and challenged books from around the world. In honor of Banned Books Week 2019, the event will feature readings of banned books and involve the Scuppernong’s Young Adult Book Club, as well as the general public, with an educational component around PEN America’s Literature Locked Up campaign and provide an opportunity for participants to sign a petition calling for the right to read in American prisons. Find out more »