It’s Banned Books Week.
The city is celebrating the “freedom to read” with free events at public libraries and nonprofits, now through Saturday.
Book bans across the country are on the rise, according to a new study from PEN America, an organization dedicated to protecting free speech. The report found that titles with LGBTQ+ characters were a major target of the recent wave of bans.
Of a total of 1,145 titles in PEN America’s index of books banned in school libraries and classrooms across the country, 33% of them had LGBTQ characters. Books with protagonists of color also made up a large portion of the titles at 41%. Other trends of targeted books include those dealing with health-related and/or sexual content, 25%, and books that address subjects related to race and racism, 22%.
According to the American Library Association, these are the 10 most challenged books from 2021.
- Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe: Was banned because of LGBTQ+ content, and because it was considered to have sexually explicit images.
- Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison: Was banned for LGBTQ+ content and because it was believed to be sexually explicit.
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson: Was banned for LGBTQ+ content and alleged profanity and because it was considered sexually explicit.
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez: Was banned for depictions of abuse and because it was considered sexually explicit.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: Was banned for profanity and violence and because it was alleged to promote an anti-police message and “indoctrination” of a social agenda.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie: Was banned for profanity, sexual references and use of a derogatory term.
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews: Was banned because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit.
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: Was banned because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit.
- This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson: Was banned for providing sex education and LGBTQ+ content.
- Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin: Was banned because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
In an effort to support teenagers affected by the bans, the Brooklyn Public Library is offering free access to banned books to young adults nationwide through its unbanned books program. The program received nationwide attention in recent weeks after an Oklahoma teacher faced scrutiny for promoting it in her classroom. The teacher, Summer Boismier, has since resigned from her position. This week, she’s visiting New York City to celebrate banned books week alongside the Brooklyn Public Library.
Libraries and organizations across the city are planning events to mark Banned Books Week.
The New York Public Library is hosting an extensive list of virtual and in-person events through the weekend, including online panels like “Censorship Divides Us: Banned Books in NYC Libraries and Schools” held by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library on Thursday, September 22nd from 3:30 pm to 4:40 pm, readings for kids like Little Movers Storytime: Banned Books Week at Macomb’s Bridge Library on Friday, September 23rd from 11 am to 11:30 am and banned book film screenings like From Banned to the Big Screen: The Color Purple, at the Castle Hill Library in the Bronx on Saturday, September 24th from 1:30 pm to 4 pm
The Brooklyn Public Library is hosting a talk with Boismier and 17-year-old transmasculine author Aren Lau moderated by New York Times reporter Alexandra Alter.
The Queens Public Library is inviting adults to check out its banned book display in Cambria Heights, and giving small prizes to anyone who checks out a banned book.
The public library system is also hosting events on Staten Island, including the screening of Gone With the Wind, which was banned in the 1970s because of the actions of the main character, Scarlet O’Hara, and the depiction of slaves.
Kerry Shaw contributed reporting.