National Banned Books Week, celebrating freedom of speech and education across the world, will kick off this Sunday and run through Oct. 3 this year.
The Marshall Public Library has a display set up to commemorate the event, featuring a number of banned books from the 2019 banned books list from the American Library Association, among others from past years.
These books include a wide range of texts, the majority of which are for children or young adults, that have been challenged or banned in the United States for one reason or another.
The ALA tracks both challenges and bans across the country each year, including in libraries and schools. Challenges to books are an attempt to remove the book from shelves or from a curriculum, and bans are the actual removal of those materials based on their content.
According to the ALA, the reason behind books being challenged can range wildly, but in 2019 the most common reasons included LGBTQIA content, sexually explicit content, political viewpoints, violence and transgender characters among others.
607 total materials were affected by censorship attempts in 2019 alone, with 66 percent occurring in public libraries and 19 percent in school libraries.
The top 10 most banned books in 2019:
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
The weeklong celebration began in 1980 when the Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) Supreme Court case ruled that school officials can’t ban books in libraries simply because of their content.
According to the ALA in response to the Supreme Court victory, a number of these banned books were showcased at the 1982 American Booksellers Association BookExpo America trade show in Anaheim, California. At the entrance to the convention center towered large, padlocked metal cages, with some 500 challenged books stacked inside and a large overhead sign cautioning that some people considered these books dangerous.
After the success of this display, the annual event began, with a number of individual schools and libraries across the country hosting their own celebrations.
At the Marshall library display community members can check out a wide variety of banned or challenged books to read at home, or pick up a word search with 2019’s most banned book titles featured.