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.
With just one day left of Banned Books Week, there’s no slowing down! We have webinars with Lilah Sturges (Lumberjanes) and David F. Walker (Bitter Root), trivia at the Kurt Vonnegut Library, screenprinting, cosplay, and so much more!
Be sure to visit the Banned Books Week event page at https://bannedbooksweek.org/events/, where you can find events happening all over the world! If you’re hosting an event, let us know about it by completing this form — we’ll add it to the map!
Don’t forget to tag @BannedBooksWeek and #BannedBooksWeek on Twitter and Facebook when you share your Banned Books Week adventures!
Identity censorship is the most frequent form of intellectual freedom challenge in today’s environment. From moral panic about Drag Queen Story Hour to frequent challenges to LGBTQ+ comics, books, and authors, this disturbing trend is gaining traction. CBLDF engages a panel of experts to help you identify and intelligently address this growing problem. In the past year, CBLDF has participated in defending challenges and bans of books solely because they contain LGBTQ+ characters, curriculum rejected because it focused on LGBTQ+ titles, and community programs canceled solely because program participants identify as LGBTQ+. In this webinar, we will speak with individuals who’ve been on the front lines of this issue to identify the contours of the problem and discuss strategies for managing it. In addition to receiving CBLDF’s “Fighting Identity Censorship Toolkit,” all webinar participants are invited to share their own stories and receive face-to-face expert advice on managing identity censorship issues. Find out more »
David F. Walker (BITTER ROOT) in conversation with Ray James (IFRT Coalition Building Committee) about how privatization impacts access, particularly as it relates to prison libraries, as (most) US prisons are privatized and how this impacts inmate access to information. This discussion will also touch on how gatekeeping and biases (of librarians, prison staff, the public) affect access for this vulnerable population. Brought to you by ALA’s Graphic Novel Comics Round Table and Intellectual Freedom Round Table, and Image Comics. Find out more »
DePaul University Library, Chicago, IL • 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm CDT
Free dramatic readings by City Lit Theater from the Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books in America, as compiled by the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. The program lasts approximately 50 minutes. Find out more »
Bishop Arts Theatre Center, Dallas, TX • 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm CDT
Banned Together: A Censorship Cabaret is a celebration of songs and scenes from shows that have been censored or challenged on America’s stages, created to raise awareness around issues of censorship and free expression in the theatre. The Dallas regional production will feature selections from Cabaret, Chicago, and Angels in America, among other notable works, with a libretto by DLDF president John Weidman (Assassins) and J.T. Rogers (Oslo, Blood and Gifts).
Banned Together, which takes place annually during PEN America’s Banned Books Week, is open to the public and free to attend. Reservations are encouraged, as we have limited capacity and this helps us anticipate audience size and plan accordingly. However, we may be able to accommodate those without an Eventbrite reservation on a first come, first served basis, pending remaining capacity and availability on the day. Find out more »
Central Washington University SURC, Ellensburg, WA • 11:00 am – 1:00 pmPDT
Free! Celebrate your freedom to read during Banned Books week. Join in our Banned Books “read-out” and stop by our table at the SURC Pit to pick up information, bookmarks and buttons, provided by Brooks Library. Find out more »
Come and join us for an evening of trivia, as we celebrate Freedom to Read Week! Test your knowledge of the most frequently challenged books. Then decorate a tote bag with your favorite quote from a banned book. Support Freedom of Expression and fashionably rock your reading uncensored! Find out more »
Mancos Public Library, Mancos, CO • 6:00 pm – 8:00 pmMDT
Get creative and join us at the Mancos Public Library for a Banned Books Cosplay Event! Dress up as your favorite character from a banned or challenged book! Read aloud from your favorite banned or challenged book! Discuss your personal feelings about the books you read and why you feel it is important to be heard! Find out more »
The Alwun House, Phoenix, AZ • 7:00 pm – 9:00 pmCDT
The Arizona LGBT+ History Project will be hosting it’s 2nd annual Banned Books Reading on Friday, September 27, at the Alwun House 1204 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85006 This will be a very special Adult story time that focuses on the problem of book censorship, in conjunction with events like this happening across the country. Come participate in an evening of laughter while exercising our right of liberty and emancipation! Find out more »
The First Amendment protects the freedom to read. Everyone is entitled to express their opinions about a book, but they don’t have the right to limit another person’s access to information. This kind of censorship is most effective when people don’t act to stop it. Here are some fundamentals to help protect your rights when it comes to freedom of speech and the right to read!
Teachers are the foundation of our free society. Their proximity to younger readers also puts them on the front lines in free expression battles. If you’re a teacher, you should understand that your rights can vary by school or school district, so be sure to get acquainted with your institution’s collection development and challenge policies. If your school lacks such policies, volunteer to help craft them. Reach out to NCAC or NCTE for guidance in drafting clear, effective policies. Public and private institutions have different First Amendment obligations. Government entities like public schools are bound by the First Amendment, but private schools can have a narrower set of guidelines.
Generally speaking, parents can object to assignments and request alternatives for their children, but they can’t make you remove content. A single complaint shouldn’t override the professional judgment of educators in shaping curriculum.
Public libraries provide resources for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people in their community. The American Library Association provides a vast range of resources, policies, and best practices to help support your ability to serve the community. Among the principles articulated in ALA’s Library Bill of Rights:
Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.
Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access
The First Amendment protects the right to sell all kinds of material, including material for adults and mature readers. Key principles that ensure you and your staff are safe:
Establish good policies and follow them. By having some specific guidelines in place and making sure every member of your staff is on the same page, you can help defuse a First Amendment emergency.
Thoughtfully display content. Every community is different, so be deliberate in how you display material. It may be helpful to segregate material for younger readers into its own section, rack mature titles on a high shelf, or even keep some more adult material in its own section.
Talk to your customers and be involved in your community. It sounds like common sense, but if you’re well-established as part of the community, people are more likely to try to work out a solution one-on-one than to take an adversarial approach.
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund recently released Selling Comics, a guide to comics retailing that also includes several chapters on the freedom to sell comics. Get a copy here. CBLDF’s Retailer Rights Workshops provide hands on information. If you are interested in hosting or participating, contact CBLDF at email@example.com
The American Booksellers Association has created a number of tools to help retailers advocate for various causes, including free expression. Find out more at http://www.bookweb.org/abfe
Readers (AKA All of Us!)
Whether you’re age 7 or 107, the First Amendment protects your right to access information. Here are some ways you can help uphold that right:
Stay informed! Keep in touch with your local librarians and educators to find out about book challenges in your community. Subscribe to news publications dedicated to the First Amendment and free expression, such as email newsletters from the members of the Banned Books Week Coalition.
Report censorship! Reporting challenges when they happen helps free expression advocates gather necessary information about what materials are at risk. The members of the Banned Books Week Coalition are ready to help fight challenges in your community, but we need to hear about them first! The best way to fight censorship is to call it out when it occurs. Several members of the Coalition have resources for reporting censorship:
Report censorship to the American Library Association using this form. ALA also has a number of challenge support tools here.
Report censorship to the National Coalition Against Censorship by completing this form.
Report censorship to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund by calling 1-888-88-CBLDF or 971-266-8212 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Speak up! Attempts to ban books rarely succeed when people speak out against them. Whether it is a school board, PTA, or library meeting or a public hearing, be there to speak up for the First Amendment and the right to read. Write letters to your local administrators, politicians, and newspapers supporting the right to read. Remind your fellow citizens and officials that no one has the right to restrict access to books, and be prepared to stand up for all books, even those you may not like. Any successful book ban opens the door to more censorship.
In observance of Banned-Books Week (September 22 – 28, 2019), the latest Project Censored Show covers some of the obstacles placed in the way of Americans’ freedom to read and learn, notably efforts to keep unfavored books out of school libraries — or even to cancel authors’ speaking engagements.
Project Censored host Mickey Huff is joined in the conversation by Charles Brownstein, Executive Director of the Comic Book Legal Fund; Jackie Farmer, Outreach Officer for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education; Abena Hutchful, Youth Free Expression Program Coordinator for the National Coalition Against Censorship; and Deborah Caldwell-Stone, Interim Director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.
The Project Censored Show airs on 40 stations and is available on iTunes and Patreon. The show was started in 2010 by Mickey Huff and Peter Phillips and the program is an extension of the work Project Censored began in 1976 celebrating independent journalism while fighting media censorship.
Banned Books Week is an annual event that highlights the value of free and open access to information. The event is supported 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, Banned Books Week Sweden, Children’s Book Council, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), Freedom to Read Foundation, GLAAD, Index on Censorship, Little Free Library, 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.