Banned Books Week 2021 starts today and lasts through October 2.
Since 2014, I have participated in the Banned Books Week Virtual Readout (which, by the way, can be done anytime — not just during BBW). In 2020, I read from A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo (here’s the recording and my post). In 2019, I read from The Hate U Give (here’s the recording and my post). In 2018, I read from And Tango Makes Three (here’s the recording and my post). In 2017, I read from I Am Jazz (here’s the recording and my post). In 2016, I read from Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out (here’s the recording and my post). In 2015, I read from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (here’s the recording and my post). In 2014, I read from Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy (here’s the recording).
The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom says it “tracked 156 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2020, targeting 273 books.”
This year, I’m reading from Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You.
“Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds was “banned and challenged” for the following reason(s), according to the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom:
“…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.”
I have been reading this book in the runup to Banned Books Week. In the midst of my reading of it, a sorority at Methodist University in North Carolina was suspended because a member created and presented a PowerPoint that pictured four of the university’s Black football players with the words “large nostrils” and the idea that a member did not like those physical characteristics.
As of this writing, the sorority has been suspended from campus and the member has apologized.
I became aware of the incident when I read about it on Instagram.
I can’t help thinking — when ruminating about the situation — that the fact that a young woman could get to the point where she is a young adult and still think “yeah — this belongs in a public presentation” is difficult to understand. I suspect many of my friends of color would say, “yeah — not surprised at all.”
I also wonder how anyone in the review process before the presentation (if there was one) didn’t say, “That doesn’t represent us.”
The words in Ibram X. Kendi’s introduction to “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” that I chose to read in this year’s virtual read-out video apply:
“There will come a time when Americans will realize that the only thing wrong with Black people is that they think something is wrong with Black people. There will come a time when racist ideas will no longer obstruct us from seeing the complete and utter abnormality of racial disparities.”
This time is less likely to come if young people are held back from reading books that ask the hard questions and challenge their preconceived notions. Their parents too — we shouldn’t put this all on the next generation. We can learn to do better, to think more broadly, to do the hard work (that never really ends).
My Virtual Read-Out
More about Banned Books Week:
Here’s one resource (and you can find others at the Banned Books Week site):
Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance. – Laurie Halse Anderson
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.