The Sonoma County Library observes Banned Books Week this September 26-October 2, 2021. First established in the 1980s, Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read and highlights resistance to book censorship in schools and public libraries. The censorship of books by librarians or community members violates the first amendment protection of free speech and conflicts with the American Library Association Code of Ethics. Thanks to vigilant library workers, teachers, parents, students, and free speech champions, attempted book bans often fail.
The desire to protect others from inappropriate or challenging ideas, frequently the children of concerned parents, is commonly cited as the reason for a book challenge. The removal of a book isn’t an expression of protection but an attack on other people’s freedom of information. Surveys suggest that most book challenges aren’t reported and often go unnoticed by the news media. Most book challenges occur in public libraries and happen in school classrooms, school libraries, and academia. You can help promote intellectual freedom by reading banned books and reporting censorship attempts to the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom.
The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom provides confidential support to anyone undergoing a challenge or ban. Support can come in letters, book reviews, resources, talking points or emotional support. Report censorship online or by calling -800-545-2433, ext. 4226.
Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020
The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 156 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2020. Of the 273 books targeted, here are the most challenged, along with the reasons cited for censoring the books. Click the book cover to place a request on a Sonoma County Library copy of each of these books to make your own assessment:
by Alex Gino (they/them)
Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community.”
Stamped: Racism, Anti Racism, and You
by Ibram X. Kendi (he/him)
and Jason Reynolds (he/him)
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 (he/him)
and Brendan Kiely (he/him)
Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now.”
by Laurie Halse Anderson (she/her)
Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint, be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie (he/him)
Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author.
Something Happened in Our Town
by Marianne Celano (she/her),
Marietta Collins (she/her),
and Ann Hazzard (she/her),
illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin (she/her)
Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views.
To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee (she/her)
Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white saviour” character, and its perception of the Black experience.
Of Mice and Men
by John Steinbeck (he/him)
Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students.
The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison (she/her)
Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicted child sexual abuse.
The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas (she/her)
Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message.
Check out these websites for more information and resources on Banned Books Week and censorship.