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    Banned Books Week: Books Unite Us, Censorship Divides Us

    “If librarianship is the connecting of people to ideas—and I believe that is the truest definition of what we do—it is crucial to remember that we must keep and make available, not just good ideas and noble ideas, but bad ideas, silly ideas, and yes, even dangerous or wicked ideas.”

    GraceAnne A. DeCandido, librarian, publisher

    Banned Books Week…what is it?

    Every year, libraries face challenges to their material. Despite the world of information available at the tap of a key or a swipe of the touchscreen, there are still attempts to censor or limit access to books, movies, programs, and more.

    To bring attention to ongoing censorship attempts, a coalition of librarians, publishers, and booksellers have recognized Banned Books Week every year since 1982. This year, it runs September 26 – October 2, and the chosen slogan is Books Unite Us, Censorship Divides Us. During this week, we celebrate our freedom to access information and entertainment, while also recognizing this freedom is continually under attack from multiple angles.

    Why is it important?

    Most documented challenges occur in public libraries, with concerned parents initiating most of the challenges. In just the past few years, we’ve seen uproar over racially insensitive Dr. Seuss books, as well as protests and death threats targeting drag queen storytimes in Nebraska and West Virginia.

    But censorship isn’t always so obvious, and sometimes even staff and administrations play the role of censor. Little everyday actions can limit people’s access: removing controversial items from displays, failure to host events from fear of pushback, placing age restrictions on certain material, and so on. These attempts sometimes try to frame libraries as apolitical or neutral. But by taking such actions, we are choosing a side, making a political choice, breaking that pretense of neutrality.

    Librarians as a profession continue to uphold the freedom to read, to watch, and to listen. By raising awareness of censorship, we help make sure challenges don’t become outright bans.

    “The real heroes are the librarians and teachers who at no small risk to themselves refuse to lie down and play dead for censors.”

    Bruce Coville, author of young adult fiction

    Top 10 most-challenged books of 2020

    1. George by Alex Gino
      A 4th-grade transgender girl struggles with her identity. George, also titled Melissa’s Story, has been one of the most-frequently challenged and banned books in recent years, appearing on this list every year since 2016.
      Reason for ban/challenge: LGBT content, religious conflict
    2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
      This edition of Kendi’s award-winning book Stamped from the Beginning is designed to be more accessible for younger readers—12 and up. It discusses the development of racism in America and its effects today.
      Reason for ban/challenge: author’s public statements, limited viewpoint
    3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
      A young adult fiction book that examines racial injustice from both black and white viewpoints.
      Reason for ban/challenge: profanity, drugs/alcohol, antipolice, divisive themes
    4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
      A young adult fiction book that looks at the challenges of high school, mental health, and abuse.
      Reason for ban/challenge: political bias, anti-male bias, features rape and profanity
    5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
      This young adult fiction book looks at a young aspiring cartoonist growing up on a Native American reservation and the challenges of attending a mostly-white high school.
      Reason for ban/challenge: profanity, sex, sexual misconduct allegations against author
    6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
      This children’s picture book observes how a police shooting of a black man affects white and black families differently.
      Reason for ban/challenge: Antipolice messages, divisive themes
    7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
      This classic novel from 1960 is no stranger to ban lists. It tells the story of a young girl in Alabama and her observations of racism and inequality in the Deep South.
      Reason for ban/challenge: racial slurs, “white savior” character
    8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
      Published in 1937, this novella follows migrant workers during the Great Depression, trying to find employment. It has been challenged over 50 times since its publication.
      Reason for ban/challenge: racial slurs/stereotypes, profanity, vulgarity
    9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
      Morrison’s first novel follows a black girl’s childhood during the Great Depression, feelings of inferiority related to her blackness, and lasting trauma of these experiences.
      Reason for ban/challenge: child sexual abuse, racism, incest
    10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
      This young adult novel follows a black high school girl and her struggle for accountability after her best friend is shot and killed by police.
      Reason for ban/challenge: profanity, vulgarity, antipolice messages

    Most of the preceding are available for checkout at Daviess County Public Library!

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