Let Freedom Read: It's Banned Books Week!

By Bridget G. RSS Mon, October 2, 2023

October 1–7 is Banned Books Week, and this year's theme is "Let Freedom Read!" This important observance began in 1982 in response to a surge in book challenges in libraries, schools, and bookstores with the aim of bringing together the literary and education communities under the shared goal of open access to information and knowledge.

At a time when library collections are increasingly under scrutiny by political groups seeking to limit people's access to free and open information, it is more important than ever to exercise our freedom to read. For a breakdown of recent book ban efforts, the American Library Association (ALA) compiled an interesting infographic on the current censorship climate that is certainly alarming.

The harms of censorship are far-reaching and risk creating a world in which people are incurious and uninspired. To combat this, here is a list of some of the most widely challenged books of the past year that are available in the Free Library's catalog:


Gender Queer: A Memoir (2019) by Maia Kobabe

In 2014, Maia Kobabe (who uses e/em/eir pronouns) thought that a comic about reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. 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.

All Boys Aren't Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto (2020) by George M. Johnson

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.

The Bluest Eye (1970) by Toni Morrison

Pecola Breedlove, a young Black girl, prays every day for beauty. Mocked by other children for the dark skin, curly hair, and brown eyes that set her apart, she yearns for normalcy, for the blond hair and blue eyes that she believes will allow her to finally fit in. Yet as her dream grows more fervent, her life slowly starts to disintegrate in the face of adversity and strife.

Flamer (2020) by Mike Curato

In the summer between middle school and high school, Aiden Navarro is away at camp where he navigates friendships, deals with bullies, and spends time with Elias (a boy he can not stop thinking about). He finds himself on a path of self-discovery and acceptance.

Looking for Alaska (2005) by John Green

16-year-old Miles' first year at Culver Creek Preparatory School in Alabama includes good friends and great pranks but is defined by the search for answers about life and death after a fatal car crash.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999) by Stephen Chbosky

The critically acclaimed debut novel from Stephen Chbosky, Perks follows observant "wallflower" Charlie as he charts a course through the strange world between adolescence and adulthood. First dates, family drama, and new friends. Sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Devastating loss, young love, and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up. A #1 New York Times bestseller for more than a year, an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults (2000) and Best Book for Reluctant Readers (2000), and with millions of copies in print, this novel for teen readers (or "wallflowers" of more-advanced age) will make you laugh, cry, and perhaps feel nostalgic for those moments when you, too, tiptoed onto the dance floor of life.

Lawn Boy (2018) by Jonathan Evison

Mike Muñoz is a young Mexican-American not too many years out of high school — and he was 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.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007) by Sherman Alexei

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

Out Of Darkness (2015) by Ashley Hope Perez

Loosely based on a school explosion that took place in New London, Texas in 1937, this is the story of two teenagers: Naomi, who is Mexican, and Wash, who is Black, and their dealings with race, segregation, love, and the forces that destroy people.

A Court of Mist and Fury (2016) by Sarah J. Maas

Though Feyre now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, but as she navigates the feared Night Court's dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms — and she might be key to stopping it.

Crank (2004) by Ellen Hopkins

In Crank, Ellen Hopkins chronicles the turbulent and often disturbing relationship between Kristina, a character based on her own daughter, and the "monster," the highly addictive drug crystal meth, or "crank." Kristina is introduced to the drug while visiting her largely absent and ne'er-do-well father. While under the influence of the monster, Kristina discovers her sexy alter-ego, Bree: "There is no perfect daughter, / No gifted high school junior, / No Kristina Georgia Snow. / There is only Bree." Bree will do all the things good girl Kristina won't, including attracting the attention of dangerous boys who can provide her with a steady flow of crank.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2012) by Jesse Andrews

Greg Gaines is the last master of high school espionage, able to disappear at will into any social environment. He has only one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time making movies, their own incomprehensible versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics. Until Greg's mother forces him to rekindle his childhood friendship with Rachel. Rachel has been diagnosed with leukemia — cue extreme adolescent awkwardness — but a parental mandate has been issued and must be obeyed. When Rachel stops treatment, Greg and Earl decide the thing to do is to make a film for her, which turns into the Worst Film Ever Made and becomes a turning point in each of their lives. And all at once Greg must abandon invisibility and stand in the spotlight.

This Book is Gay (2015) by Juno Dawson

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.

Happy Banned Books Week from the Free Library!

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Why does the library not carry any books by gender critical feminists like Kajsa Ekis Ekman, Julie Bindel, Kathleen Stock? Or conservatives like Abigail Shrier (you have just one ebook copy of Irreversible Damage)? Or health care providers like Miriam Grossman who are concerned about the medical abuse of children? Until you actually stock your catalog with dissident voices and let them appear at free library events, this post rings very hollow. I can't find any of the books I want to read that are critical of gender ideology at the free library or local bookshops. But I sure do see these books you've listed everywhere...
Philly Mom - Philadelphia
Thursday, October 5, 2023

i love you
Yuko - ohio
Thursday, October 5, 2023

thank you for celebrating these books and for encouraging reading them!
ellen codd - blue bell
Thursday, October 5, 2023