Banned Books Week (September 26-October 2, 2021) is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community—librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types—in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
This year's theme is "Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us." Sharing stories important to us means sharing a part of ourselves. Books reach across boundaries and build connections between readers. Censorship, on the other hand, creates barriers.
The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.
More than 273 titles were challenged or banned in 2020, with increasing demands to remove books that address racism and racial justice or those that shared the stories of Black, Indigenous, or people of color. As with previous years, LGBTQ+ content also dominated the list. Here are the top 10 most challenged books of the year.
Top 10 Challenged Books of 2020:
- George by Alex Gino - challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community.”
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds - Banned and challenged because of the author’s public statements and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people.
- All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely - Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism and because it was thought to promote antipolice views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now.”
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint, it was claimed to be biased against male students, and it included rape and profanity.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie - Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of the author.
- Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin - Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote antipolice views.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience.
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes and their negative effect on students.
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison - Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - Challenged for profanity, and because it was thought to promote an antipolice message.