Banned Books Week 2023

Public libraries by their very nature present people with a range of differing viewpoints. When you enter a library, there is not one specific book being lauded, or one specific activity, or one specific type of customer. Rather there is a diversity of materials and experiences. When libraries are at their healthiest, they serve one and all.

Last year, an article in the New York Times said that people demanding book bans argue that the censorship is not motivated by racism or bigotry, but librarians across the nation have disproved this by showing that the most challenged books in our country are by or about Black, Brown, and LGBTQ+ people. Recently compiled data shared by the American Library Association reports a 20% increase in book banning this year, “…a 20% increase from the same reporting period in 2022, which saw the highest number of book challenges since ALA began compiling the data more than 20 years ago. The vast majority of challenges were to books written by or about a person of color or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.” Pen America research shows a leap even higher than ALA’s, with a 33% increase.

These book bans tell writers and readers, including children, that their stories do not matter.

What happens to a person when their stories are discouraged, denied, or erased? The answer: dehumanization. We are our stories. Book bans communicate: Your story is not allowed here, not within the pages of a book, not on the shelves of a library or a bookstore, and not within the confines of our world. You are lesser than; you should not exist.

Toni Morrison, whose novels number among the most frequently banned books in our country, wrote in an anthology she edited, Burn This Book: Notes on Literature and Engagement, “The thought that leads me to contemplate with dread the erasure of other voices, of unwritten novels, poems whispered or swallowed for fear of being overheard by the wrong people, outlawed languages flourishing underground, essayists’ questions challenging authority never being posed, unstaged plays, canceled films—that thought is a nightmare. As though a whole universe is being described in invisible ink.”

Libraries, at their healthiest, ensure a variety of stories are inked and visible. Diversity in literature allows more individuals to recognize themselves and others as embraced and folded into—not kept outside of or erased from—our global community.

Public libraries are about so much more than books, but the evolving human story remains the spinal column of our institution. It’s up to us as citizens to assist them in amplifying stories and not shuttering them. No institution is perfect just as no person is perfect, but we can help public libraries thrive by celebrating their efforts to engage with a diverse public.

The need to read banned books and to fight back against censorship is greater than ever. This is engagement that will save lives. Banned Books Weeks is October 1 through 7. For a list of the most frequently challenged books, please see below.

For more information and action items, please see the ALA website, Banned & Challenged Books | Advocacy, Legislation & Issues (, We Need Diverse Books, We Need Diverse Books –, and Pen America, PEN America.

For anyone facing book banning in their community, Seattle Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, LA County Public Library, and Boston Public Library participate in Books Unbanned, an initiative giving teens and young adults around the country access to their eBook collection.

Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

Check It Out: Book

2. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

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Flamer by Mike Curato

Check It Out: Book

Looking for Alaska by John Green (tied)

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (tied)

Check It Out: Book

Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison

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Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez

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A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (tied)

Check It Out: Book

Crank by Ellen Hopkins (tied)

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (tied)

Check It Out: Book

This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson (tied)

Check It Out: Book