This fall, the New York Public Library (NYPL) is celebrating Banned Books Week, going on from Oct. 1 – Oct. 7. This celebration is not new for the NYPL, or for libraries nationwide. However, this year’s banned book week is a little different; 2022 boasted the highest number of banned and challenged books ever recorded. This year, NYPL data suggests that the US is on track for yet another record-breaking year.
The idea of Banned Books Week is to “highlight titles that have been targeted for removal from schools and libraries”, according to the NYPL’s website. The celebration began in 1982, against the banning of books that were challenged for their inclusion of LGBTQ+ voices and people of color.
Events at the NYPL celebrating the week included the promotion of their Teen Banned Book Club, which offers teens free access to banned or challenged books throughout the year. This group also provides a forum for open discussion on the books and invites authors to speak to the young adults who are a part of the club. The library also created a National Teen Writing Contest for the week, asking students to respond to the prompt, “Why is the freedom to read important to you?”.
A new holiday was even added this year to celebrate Banned Books Week. NYC Mayor, Eric Adams, officially declared Oct. 4 as “Freedom to Read Day” across NYC. The goal of the day is to have New Yorkers post a picture of a book that’s meaningful to them on social media, and use #FreedomToRead to share why open access to books, information, and knowledge is important to their community, according to the NYPL blog.
Each year, the week’s celebration is given a theme. This year’s selected theme was “Let Freedom Read!” a play on words of Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous phrase, “Let Freedom Ring” from his I Have A Dream Speech.
Besides aiming to remove restrictions from these books, the American Literary Association (ALA) aims to draw national attention to the harms of censorship.
Banned Books Week celebrates books banned in the previous year. According to the official Banned Books Week website, the following 13 books were the most banned in 2022.
- Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison Reasons: depiction of sexual abuse, claimed to be sexually explicit
- Flamer by Mike Curato Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
- (TIE) Looking for Alaska by John Green Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content
- (TIE) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content, depiction of sexual abuse, drugs, profanity
- Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, profanity
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit
- (TIE) A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit
- (TIE) Crank by Ellen Hopkins Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, drugs
- (TIE) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, profanity
- (TIE) This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, sex education, claimed to be sexually explicit
While Banned Books Week is a great week to get involved in promoting underrepresented voices, picking up a book from your favorite banned author, or donating books to your local library, there are many ways to get involved year-round. To find a full list of banned books and more ways to take action, visit Banned Books Week at The New York Public Library.