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Banned Books Week Puts Focus on Freedom to Read Through October 3

banned books weekAt least 311 books were challenged or removed from schools or libraries in 2014, according to the American Library Association (ALA). Clearly, censorship remains a threat to an open literary culture. Banned Books Week wants to do something about it. The annual event, which kicked off this Sunday and runs through Saturday, October 3, was launched more than 30 years ago to draw attention to a dramatic increase in the number of challenges to books available in schools and libraries.

This year’s theme is Young Adult fiction—a frequently targeted category. Recently challenged books taught in middle or high school include The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Commonly cited reasons include “homosexuality,” “drugs/alcohol/smoking,” “offensive language,” “sexually explicit,” and “unsuited for age group.”

Author Malinda Lo took a closer look at the titles that have been challenged and found that books with diverse content suffer disproportionately. This included not only books written by authors of color but books that “addressed issues about race, sexuality and/or disability; or were about non-white, LGBTQ and/or disabled characters.” This is especially alarming given that these voices are already marginalized.

Bookstores and libraries across the country will host events and draw attention to the problem of censorship with displays and posters. The ALA will host a one-hour webinar on September 29 on how to prevent book challenges, how to handle them when they happen, and how to bring awareness to the issue. There will also be a Reddit Banned Books Week AMA on October 1, and readers from all over the country will be able to participate in virtual read-outs. You can find out if there are any events in your area by checking out the Banned Books Week events page.