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Why Read Banned Books

In a recent New York Times opinion article entitled Banning My Book Won’t Protect Your Child Carmen Maria Machado shared that parents in a school district demanded the removal of her book In the Dream House: A Memoir and several others from district reading lists for high school English class book clubs.

Banned or challenged books are parts of librarians’ life all over the world. The American Library Association promotes an annual event celebrating the freedom to read, including lists of challenged books based on reports received from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to ban books in the United States.

We at Books We Read promote and celebrate the right to read. We want our voices heard when it comes to banned and challenged books. We were the proud co-host of the events of Banned Books Week 2020, where we presented flash talks and read from books that had been banned for reasons listed on the page.

In preparation for the event at Rutgers in 2020, we explained the long practice of banning books as a form of censorship for various reasons, mostly falling into two categories over time: indecency or political subversion. For examples, see the top entries on the American Library Association’s Top 10 Challenged Books list. Even bestsellers can’t avoid this fate at times.

More banning would occur without librarians, teachers, journalists, and others speaking out to defend our freedom to read. Although banning books will not remain a dark secret, such as Samizdat books in the past, every single challenged title also challenges our commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Librarians routinely purchase (and read) books that they might not pick for their private book club or would read otherwise in their free time, as we follow well-designed, thoughtful collection development policies. Check out this research guide on banned books.


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Interested in banned books? Browse the collection of short essays Books We Read members and guest bloggers wrote for Banned Book Weeks 2020. You will find more information and resources as each looks at the issue from a different angle.

We at Books We Read can’t wait to hear what Carmen Maria Machado has to say about her book being challenged when she comes to Summer Tales on June 23, 2021.