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Banned Books Week

A guide to ALA's Banned Books Week with a focus on libraries, censorship, and cancel culture.

Importance of Banned Books Week (September 27 - October 3, 2020)

Banned books week has been around since 1982 with the distinct purpose of preserving the freedom to read. For many years, books have been challenged or even banned due to controversial content. Librarians, educators, authors, and publishers regularly attempt to bring awareness to the threat to control the type of material available to read.  

In this guide we will address censorship and a recent phenomenon - cancel culture and the impact it can have on the availability of books, media, and content to the public.

Pablo Antonio Cuadra photo

Pablo Antonio Cuadra (Essayist)

"Let's be clear: censorship is cowardice...It masks corruption. It is a school of torture: it teaches, and accustoms one to the use of force against an idea,...But worst still, censorship destroys criticism, which is the essential ingredient of culture."

Toni Morrison photo

Toni Morrison (Novelist)

"You have to read, you have to know, you have to have access to knowledge."

John Stewart photo

Jon Stewart (Comedian)

"I'm not going to censor myself to comfort your ignorance."

Judy Blume photo

Judy Blume (Writer)

"Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won't have as much censorship because we won't have as much fear."

Jay-Z photo

Jay-Z (Rapper)

"We change people through conversation, not through censorship."

Bridget Hourican photo

Bridget Hourican (Journalist)

"So what does the current situation with regard to cancelling/challenging books tell us about what our contemporary societies most fear?...we seem to fear ambiguity and to crave absolute certainty."

George Carlin photo

George Carlin (Comedian)

"Censorship that comes from the outside assumes about people an inability to make reasoned choices."

Katharine Whitehorn photo

Katharine Whitehorn (Journalist)

"The  case against censoring anything is absolute:..nothing that could be censored can be so bad in its effects, in the long run, as censorship itself."

Oscar Wilde photo

Oscar Wilde (Poet)

"The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame."

Most Challenged Books

Cover art for George


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”

Cover art for Beyond Magenta

Beyond Magenta

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

Cover art for Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo

Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo

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

Cover art for Sex Is a Funny Word

Sex Is a Funny Word

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” 

Cover art for Prince and Knight

Prince and Knight

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

Cover art for I Am Jazz

I Am Jazz

Reasons: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”

Cover art for The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale

Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”