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Celebrating the Freedom to Read
About Banned Books Week
Banned Books Week is a weeklong celebration of freedom (f-READ-om??) and a way to highlight current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. Reading is an indispensable tool for intellectual freedom, and this annual event supports the freedom to seek and express ideas - the freedom to read the books that challenge us (even those which may be considered unpopular or uncomfortable). Removing or restricting access to books creates barriers. Books have the power to reach across boundaries - to build connections between readers by allowing us to share our stories with one another.
In conjunction with the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, McGill Library declares this week Freedom to Read Week! This week, let’s talk about how we can all benefit from the American shared freedom to choose and read books for our own interests. To learn more about Banned Books Week, visit the American Library Association's Banned & Challenged Books page.
Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2021
The American Library Association tracked 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2021. Of the 1,597 individual books that were challenged or banned in 2021, these are the top 10 most challenged.
Statistics courtesy of the American Library Association.
Gender Queer: a Memoir by
Maia's intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity--what it means and how to think about it--for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.
Lawn Boy by
Mike Muñoz is a young Mexican American not too many years out of high school--and just fired from his latest gig as a lawn boy on a landscaping crew. Though he tries time and again to get his foot on the first rung of that ladder to success, he can't seem to get a break. But then things start to change for Mike, and after a raucous, jarring, and challenging trip, he finds he can finally see the future and his place in it.
All Boys Aren't Blue by
In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.
Out of Darkness by
New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. They know the people who enforce them. But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive. (Set during the 1937 New London school explosion, the deadliest school disaster in American history.).
The Hate U Give by
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by
Seventeen-year-old Greg has managed to become part of every social group at his Pittsburgh high school without having any friends, but his life changes when his mother forces him to befriend Rachel, a girl he once knew in Hebrew school who has leukemia.
The Bluest Eye by
Eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, an African-American girl in an America whose love for blonde, blue-eyed children can devastate all others, prays for her eyes to turn blue, so that she will be beautiful, people will notice her, and her world will be different. The story of eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, the tragic heroine of Toni Morrison's haunting first novel, grew out of her memory of a girlhood friend who wanted blue eyes.
This Book Is Gay by
Lesbian. Bisexual. Queer. Transgender. Straight. Curious. This book is for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual preference. This book is for anyone who's ever dared to wonder. This book is for YOU. There's a long-running joke that, after "coming out," a lesbian, gay guy, bisexual, or trans person should receive a membership card and instruction manual. THIS IS THAT INSTRUCTION MANUAL. You're welcome. Inside you'll find the answers to all the questions you ever wanted to ask: from sex to politics, hooking up to stereotypes, coming out and more. This candid and uncensored exploration of sexuality and what it's like to grow up LGBT also includes real stories from people across the gender and sexual spectrums, not to mention illustrations.
Beyond Magenta by
Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves
Frequently Banned & Challenged Books
The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) has been tracking and recording attempts to ban books since 1990. The following list is just a snapshot of the most banned and challenged books. For a more extensive list and some great information, visit the ALA page for more Frequently Challenged Books.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by
The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.
In Laurie Halse Anderson's powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.
To Kill a Mockingbird by
The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it. Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos.
Sex Is a Funny Word by
A comic book for kids that includes children and families of all makeups, orientations, and gender identities, Sex Is a Funny Word is an essential resource about bodies, gender, and sexuality for children ages 8 to 10 as well as their parents and caregivers. Much more than the "facts of life" or “the birds and the bees," Sex Is a Funny Word opens up conversations between young people and their caregivers in a way that allows adults to convey their values and beliefs while providing information about boundaries, safety, and joy.
Prince and Knight by
In this modern fairy tale, a noble prince and a brave knight come together to defeat a terrible monster and in the process find true love in a most unexpected place.
The Handmaid's Tale by
An acclaimed dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood, published in 1985. The Handmaid's Tale, set in New England in the near future, posits a Christian fundamentalist theocratic regime in the former United States that arose as a response to a fertility crisis.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by
Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Skippyjon Jones by
Skippyjon Jones is a Siamese cat with an overactive imagination who would rather be El Skippito, his Zorro-like alter ego.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by
An African American woman recalls the anguish of her childhood in Arkansas and her adolescence in northern slums in the 1930's and 1940's."I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a 1969 autobiography describing the early years of American writer and poet Maya Angelou. The first in a seven-volume series, it is a coming-of-age story that illustrates how strength of character and a love of literature can help overcome racism and trauma.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by
Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically-gifted, autistic, fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor's dog and uncovers secret information about his mother.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by
Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie is navigating through the strange worlds of love, drugs, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," and dealing with the loss of a good friend and his favorite aunt.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer, yet her cells--taken without her knowledge--became one of the most important tools in medicine. The story of the Lacks family is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of.
Censorship by the Numbers