You’ve probably read one of the following classics: The Color Purple by Alice Walker,
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Did you know that these are all banned books? In fact, The Catcher in the Rye has been dubbed the “favorite of the censors” by the American Library Association (ALA) for its track record of being challenged nearly every year since statistics were first recorded in 1963.
The theme for Banned Books Week 2022 is “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.” The ALA writes that, “Books reach across boundaries and build connections between readers.
Censorship, on the other hand, creates barriers. Banned Books Week is both a reminder of the unifying power of stories and the divisiveness of censorship, and a call to action for readers across the country to push back against censorship attempts in their communities.”
Every year the ALA compiles a list of book challenges and removals across the US. In 2021, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to library, school and university materials and services, resulting in roughly 1,600 book challenges or removals, most of which were about Black or LGBTQIA+ individuals.
Thanks to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students, and other dedicated
individuals, most book challenges and bans are unsuccessful, resulting in the retention of
materials within school curriculums and library collections. If, however, a book is banned, it is
most often banned within a single school or library and is therefore still available outside of
Banned Books Week reminds us that every story has a purpose and a right to be told. If we
erase the story of one person to “protect” another, what we’re also saying is that there’s only
one type of person worth protecting.
In case you’re interested, here are the top 10 most challenged books of 2021, according to the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF):
1. Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
2. Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
3. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
4. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
6. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
7. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
8. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
9. This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson
10. Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin
If you haven’t been into the library this week, be sure to drop in and check out the Banned
Books Week display directly across from the circulation desk. You’ll find various books that have been challenged or banned throughout the years. Many of them will likely surprise you! I encourage you to pick one up and read it. Share it with a friend and talk about it. Use these
books as an opportunity to connect with others through your questions and conversations.
Because while censorship inevitably divides us, books have the power to unite us.