It’s that time of year again. Banned Books Week. The American Library Association’s annual fight against censorship and to raise awareness of banned and challenged books. It’s the good fight, and we are proud to fight it alongside them each year.
As this year is the beginning of a new decade, there has been a lot of looking back at the last ten years. The ALA has compiled a list of the Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books from 2010 to 2019. It’s an interesting list, especially if you think about the reasons books were banned.
While there are some books that do not appear on the decade’s list that one would really expect to see (a certain boy wizard has finally been accepted, perhaps? or at least Texas has decided said boy wizard no longer encourages witchcraft among their children), there are definitely a lot of old, familiar staples. Poor George by Alex Gino, which has been in the top ten for the last 3 years at least, comes in at number 5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, at 15, will never not be on the list, I fear. Number 25, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, had me rolling my eyes with a, “Still? we are STILL banning SPEAK??” And I find it deliciously ironic that 1984 by George Orwell clocks in at number 79. But overwhelmingly, the majority of the books on this list have so obviously been banned because they are queer. And I’m tired.
I’ve talked in past Banned Books Week posts about why it’s so dangerous to ban queer books; the internet has discussed it ad nauseum, too, I’m sure. We’ve talked about representation, about the importance of kids seeing people who are like them in their stories, as the heroes. But it’s just as important for kids to see people who are not like them as heroes. If we show them that anyone can be a hero–not just them, not just people like them, but anyone, truly anyone–then we build a more open and accepting society from the ground up, and that’s huge.
It feels especially poignant to be discussing censorship in the year 2020–the year that has seen artistic video platforms removed from app stores, that has seen famous authors Who Shall Not Be Named voicing untruths about the existence of trans people, that has seen Black and queer and BIPOC authors pushing to the front of the conversation and shouting just to make their voices heard. We have tried to do our part to boost the voices that need to be heard. And it’s discouraging to see a list that illustrates so clearly that we still have a long way to go.
But at the same, it’s inspiring to know that there are people out there doing the work, putting in the time and effort, making the voices heard. The books that are challenged and banned can be uplifted by others who know the harms of censorship. They can be made available in the places where people want to silence them. They can be discussed and raised up in online spaces so those who need to see them, who need to read them, who need to see themselves in them can find them.
And we will always strive to do that. We hope you help, by reading, by reviewing, by posting about banned books you love and why, by telling kids why they are important, why reading is important. Why heroes are important, especially when they come in all shapes, sizes, colors, orientations. I might be tired of seeing queer books getting banned, but I’m not going to let that stop me from writing more lists of queer books you should read. Books about Black protagonists banned for being violent will get a review from me. Books about misbehaving, about rebelling, about standing up for yourself and making your voice heard will inspire me to do the same.
I hope you join me.
Find the Top 100 list here.
You can find our store’s previous years’ Banned Books Week posts here.