In honor of Banned Books Week and in protest of censorship of books with LGBTQIA+ and racial equity themes in Oklahoma schools and libraries, we are holding a public reading of some of the most banned and challenged books of the past five years. Readings will be modified to be appropriate for families with middle-school-aged children and older. Between readings, there will be performances by local musicians. Participants will also have an opportunity to write a letter to favorite banned book authors and send a message of support to Oklahoma teachers and librarians.
The Banned Books Week Coalition is delighted to announce our theme for the 2021 celebration of the right to read: “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.” The annual event will take place September 26 – October 2, 2021.
With a central image showing two hands sharing a book, the 2021 theme is intended to be inclusive and emphasizes the ways in which books and information bring people together, help individuals see themselves in the stories of others, and aid the development of empathy and understanding for people from other backgrounds.
The Coalition announces the Banned Books Week theme in conjunction with National Library Week and the release of the American Library Association’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books list. This year’s list includes titles that address racism and racial justice, as well as those that shared the stories of Black, Indigenous, or people of color. As with previous years, LGBTQ+ content also dominated the list:
- George by Alex Gino. Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community.”
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. Banned and challenged because of the author’s public statements and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people.
- All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism and because it was thought to promote antipolice views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now.”
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint, it was claimed to be biased against male students, and it included rape and profanity.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of the author.
- Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin. Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote antipolice views.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience.
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes and their negative effect on students.
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Challenged for profanity, and because it was thought to promote an antipolice message.
Please visit bannedbooksweek.org and follow our social media for updates on Coalition events and resources. You’ll also find print and digital assets, publications, and more to help you plan and promote your event, and we will be adding even more resources in the coming months!
If you need posters, bookmarks, buttons, or other physical materials for your Banned Books Week celebration, visit the ALA webstore!
Finally, the Coalition maintains a free public events page for happenings around the world. Anyone hosting an event or putting up a display is encouraged to visit https://bannedbooksweek.org/events/ to have it included on the list.
Join us for the celebration of the ways in which books unite us during Banned Books Week, September 26 – October 2, 2021!
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.