Happy Birthday, Ellen Hopkins!

Banned and Challenged Books, Censorship, General Interest

By: Alex Supko

Today is Ellen Hopkins’ birthday!

Ellen Hopkins book titlesBorn March 26, 1955 in Long Beach, CA, she is a New York Times bestselling author, writing 14 YA and two adult novels. Her most recent book, The You I’ve Never Known, was published in January 2017. Her YA books cover topics such as drug addiction, mental illness, and prostitution, to name a few.

Because of the subject matter of her books, her writing has been challenged on several occasions, being put in ALA’s Frequently Challenged Book list for both 2015 and 2016. The second novel in the Crank series, Glass, was challenged in 2009 in Norman, OK, which she details in her Livejournal. The challenge resulted in a cancellation of her appearance at the school. In 2010 she was banned from appearing at Humble Independent School Districts’ book festival. When she reached out to other authors who were supposed to appear, the event was cancelled because many pulled out in a sign of solidarity. She has become an outspoken advocate for intellectual freedom, writing an anti-censorship manifesto for Huffington Post in 2010.


To you zealots and bigots and false

patriots who live in fear of discourse.

You screamers and banners and burners

who would force books

off shelves in your brand name

of greater good.

You say you’re afraid for children,

innocents ripe for corruption

by perversion or sorcery on the page.

But sticks and stones do break

bones, and ignorance is no armor.

You do not speak for me,

and will not deny my kids magic

in favor of miracles.

You say you’re afraid for America,

the red, white, and blue corroded

by terrorists, socialists, the sexually

confused. But we are a vast quilt

of patchwork cultures and multi-gendered

identities. You cannot speak for those

whose ancestors braved

different seas.

You say you’re afraid for God,

the living word eroded by Muhammed

and Darwin and Magdalene.

But the omnipotent sculptor of heaven

and earth designed intelligence.

Surely you dare not speak

for the father, who opens

his arms to all.

A word to the unwise.

Torch every book.

Char every page.

Burn every word to ash.

Ideas are incombustible.

And therein lies your real fear.

Because of her advocacy work, she was part of ALA’s virtual read-out in 2015, she spoke about censorship during Banned Books Week 2011, and wrote the forward for ALA’s 2012 book True Stories of Censorship Battles in America’s Libraries by Valerie Nye and Kathy Barco. 

Thank you, Ellen Hopkins, for your writing and advocacy, and happy birthday!


Alex SupkoAlex Supko is a librarian for Baltimore County Public Library in Baltimore, Maryland. He is also a member of Maryland Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Panel. He believes passionately that everyone deserves open access to the internet, and that your personal privacy is important.

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