Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week, Sept 27 – Oct 3, 2020, is a celebration of the freedom to read and the resistance to censorship worldwide. This year’s theme is “Censorship is a Dead End. Find Your Freedom to Read.” Every year in the United States there are hundreds of requests across the country to remove books from libraries and schools. Alarmingly, the American Library Association reports that half of the most frequently challenged books were actually banned last year.

Portland Community College (PCC) Library is a strong advocate of the principle of the freedom to read. Censorship of books prevents individuals from accessing the full range of viewpoints and perspectives so they can learn from them and draw their own conclusions about their merits.

Top Ten Book Challenges (2019)

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom creates a yearly top 10 frequently challenged books. Find out which titles made the 2019 list in the video below, then check out one of these titles to read.

Challenged books

(1) George by Alex Gino
Reasons: challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”

(2) Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
Reasons: challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased.

(3) A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
Reasons: Challenged and vandalized for LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning.

(4) Sex is a Funny Word, by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
Reasons: Challenged, banned, and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate”

(5) Prince & Knight, by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis
Reasons: Challenged and restricted for featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint.

(6) I am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
Reasons: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”.

(7) The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”.

(8) Drama, written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals”.

(9) Harry Potter, series by J.K. Rowling
Reasons: Banned and forbidden from discussion for referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals.

(10) And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson illustrated by Henry Cole
Reason: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content

Recommended websites

Challenges by Reasons, Initiator, and Institution
Visual graphs covering the reasons for book challenges.

Intellectual Freedom Challenges in Oregon: A News Database
Articles from Oregon newspapers about book challenges and other intellectual freedom issues for the past 65 years.

Most Frequently Challenged Authors of the 21st Century
Compiled by the American Library Association, this site includes the top ten challenged books by year from 2001-2012.

Oregon Library Association: Celebrate the Freedom to Read in Oregon
Facebook page dedicated to fighting censorship, protecting intellectual freedom, and celebrating the freedom to read.

12 Most Famous Banned Books
These books have been banned in a variety of countries including the USA and Russia.  In some cases, the books have been burned.