Banned Books Week 2021: Books Unite Us, Censorship Divides Us

Banned Books Week (September 26 – October 2)  is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. Banned Books Week highlights the value of free and open access to information and 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. 
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Every year, the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles a list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books in order to inform the public about censorship in libraries and schools. The 2020 most challenged books list includes newer titles touching on racial injustice, books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters, and classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the most frequently challenged books in the United States for decades.

Johns Hopkins University Press proudly supports this year's Banned Books Week theme: Books unite us, censorship divides us. Below is a sampling of just a few of the scholarly articles published in JHU Press journals that touch on this year's top 10 banned titles, as well as the issue at large. These resources will remain freely available for the next month.

Review of George, by Alex Gino
Deborah Stevenson
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, vol. 69 no. 2, 2015

Reflections on Fifty Years of The Bluest Eye 
Stephanie Li
College Literature, vol. 47 no. 4, 2020

On Being a Banned Writer 
Norma Klein
The Lion and the Unicorn, vol. 10, 1986

Review of Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
Janaka B. Lewis
Children's Literature Association Quarterly, vol. 45 no. 4,  2020

Banned from the Libraries?: Ovid's Books and Their Fate in the Exile Poetry
Barak Blum
American Journal of Philology, vol. 138 no. 3, 2017

Melinda's Closet: Trauma and the Queer Subtext of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak 
Don Latham
Children's Literature Association Quarterly, vol. 31 no. 4, 2006

Hidden in Plain Sight: Gay and Lesbian Books in Midwestern Public Libraries, 1900–1969
Joanne E. Passet
Library Trends, vol. 60 no. 4, 2012

Not Exactly: Intertextual Identities and Risky Laughter in Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian
Adrienne Kertzer
Children's Literature, vol. 40, 2012

Where is Finch's Landing? Rereading To Kill A Mockingbird As Moral Pedagogy
Simon Stow
Philosophy and Literature, vol. 45 no. 1, 2021 

Using Literature To Teach Ethical Principles in Medicine: Of Mice and Men and the Concept of Duty
Edward E. Waldron
Literature and Medicine, vol. 7, 1988

Adolescence, Blackness, and the Politics of Respectability in Monster and The Hate U Give
Gabrielle Owen
The Lion and the Unicorn, vol. 43 no. 2, 2019

Books Cannot Be Killed by Fire: The German Freedom Library and the American Library of Nazi-Banned Books as Agents of Cultural Memory
Nikola von Merveldt
Library Trends, vol. 55 no. 3, 2007