By JAKE SEXTON
For decades, libraries have been commemorating Banned Books Week, a time to celebrate the freedom to read and highlight both the dangers of censorship and the benefits of reading without restriction.
Most libraries uphold intellectual freedom through the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which empowers them to hold firm against challenges to their materials. But in the past year, some have pushed hard to have certain books removed from the shelves of school and public libraries, sometimes being successful. So, this year’s Banned Books Week is especially relevant.
Here are some challenged or banned titles that we think you might enjoy.
2019’s Gender Queer: A Memoir is a graphic novel about Maia Kobabe’s coming of age.
Never feeling comfortable with either a male or female identity, Kobabe wrote a book about their life, growing up rural, passion about art, and confusion about their place in the world; it does contains some frank discussions of bodily experiences and sexuality. In the state of Virginia, there was a lawsuit to have the book declared “obscene,” but the lawsuit failed.
One of the most startling book challenges this year was Art Spiegelman’s Maus: A Survivor’s Tale.
Published in 1980, the book is a memoir in the form of a graphic novel based on the struggles and terror of Spiegelman’s Jewish family in Germany during the Holocaust. Spiegelman depicts Jewish characters as mice and the Nazis as cats. The book is a dark, adult tale and has won several prestigious awards over the years.
Another frequently challenged book is 2020’s All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto.
This is a series of autobiographical essays by journalist George M. Johnson about growing up black and queer in New Jersey. It includes stories of being bullied at a young age, family anecdotes, teen relationships and race, sexual assault, joy and pain. Johnson says that this is the book that they would have wanted to read when they were younger and transitioning into adulthood.
Angie Thomas wrote The Hate U Give in 2017, foreshadowing the renewed political issue of police violence against African Americans. The book is the fictional story of a teen who becomes a political activist after her friend is shot and killed by a police officer. It depicts her fear, her fight for justice, and her complicated relationships with family and friends. It won several awards for teen literature and was turned into a movie in 2018.
One last title that seems to get challenged every year is 2007’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
This is a humorous and poignant story about a Native American teen who decides to start attending a predominantly white high school dozens of miles away from his reservation in Washington. Young Alexie must deal with poverty, racism, fitting in at school, estrangement from his community, and puberty.
All these books and more are available at the San Diego County Library, in physical or downloadable formats. For more information about Banned Books Week, visit bannedbooksweek.org or visit your local SDCL branch.
Here in La Mesa, we are bringing back popular programs from the past, including chair yoga.
Join us Tuesday mornings at 11 a.m. (before the library opens) for some gentle exercise from a knowledgeable instructor.
For more information on La Mesa Branch Library, visit sdcl.org.