Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard

“Divisive” Books Help Children Experiencing Trauma: An interview with the authors of Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice

The authors of challenged book Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice discuss censorship, how racism affects children’s health, and how anti-racist literature benefits society.

Photo of Barbara Park and her dog, Maggie.

Happy Birthday Barbara Park!

We are used to seeing censorship attempts for heavy, controversial topics: drugs, LGBTQ+ themes, sexual content, religion, death, ect. But the Junie B. Jones series is aimed at young readers. She’s a kindergartener, worried about riding the bus on her first day of school and getting up to hilarious, albeit a bit questionable, antics. To what, exactly, are people objecting in these books?

Image includes the book cover of Call Me Max and The Murray School District logo with the words “LGBTQIA+ book challenge to the right of the images.

Throwing the Baby Out with the Bath Water: Challenges to Call Me Max and Equity Book Bundles in Murray School District

A challenge to the book Call Me Max by Kyle Lukoff, a picture book about a transgender child, led to the Murray School District in Murray Utah temporarily suspending their equity book bundle program. The equity book bundle program is a program to help provide teachers with more diverse titles, particularly racially diverse titles, to add to their curriculum. Call Me Max is not part of the equity book bundle program, which has led to many questioning why the school district made the decision to put the program on hold in light of the challenge.

Pen and publishing contract

From Zora Neale Hurston’s “What White Publishers Won’t Print” (1950) TO #PublishingPaid Me (2020)

Hurston wrote “What White Publishers Won’t Print” in 1950. Seventy years later, #PublishingPaidMe exposed what we now know as the disparity of publishers’ pay advances to Black writers compared to White writers. There is a historical notion that Black books won’t appeal to a broad audience that has long been discredited through the success of many Black books. Hurston’s use of African-American Vernacular (AAV), her portrayal of black women, and Black cultural traditions were used to center Black lives in her stories. Because the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020 are primarily of diverse people and topics, it is imperative to continue supporting and making opportunities equitable for Black writers.

Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2020

ALA’s Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2020

In 2020, more than 273 books were challenged or banned. Demands to remove books addressing racism and racial justice or those that shared the stories of Black, Indigenous, or people of color grew in number. At the same time, books addressing themes and issues of concern for LGBTQIA+ people continued to dominate the list.

This post includes the top 10 most challenged books of 2020, and a description of challenges that were reported in the news in 2020, available in the compiled booklet Field Report 2020: Banned & Challenged Books on the ALA Store.

Vail School District Slaughterhouse-five

History Repeated: the Trials of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five has been subject to banning, challenges and even burning for decades. The American Library Association lists the title in it’s Banned and Challenged Classics page, citing a book burning in North Dakota in 1973 and a variety of bans and challenges due to language, sexual references and even because it “contains and makes references to religious matters.” ALA notes only two instances of retention after the book was challenged.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

Challenge to Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: Q&A with Aidan Larson

Recently, I was able to speak to Ms. Larson regarding this situation. Her commitment to intellectual freedom and dedication to fostering an antiracist learning environment for her students is evident in her discussion of the challenge to Stamped. Not every educator is in the position to fight back against a challenge: it can be a risk to their professional reputation or even their job security. But if they’re able to do so, it always makes a difference, even if censorship prevails in that particular incident. As Ms. Larson states below: “Fight for the kids. They will know. They always know.”