Banned Books To Read During Banned Books Week

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Yashvi Peeti


Yashvi Peeti is an aspiring writer and an aspiring penguin. She has worked as an editorial intern with Penguin Random House India and HarperCollins Publishers India. She is always up for fangirling over poetry, taking a walk in a park, and painting tiny canvases. You can find her on Instagram @intangible.perception

Words and ideas can make the world revolve. They can be wonderful and threatening. Banned Books Week (September 27–October 3, 2020) is an annual campaign promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International. It celebrates the freedom to read and lends the spotlight to banned and challenged books.

Oscar Wilde wrote: “The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.” So let’s look at a list of books that look at the world’s immorality in its eye. And books that challenge the supposed shame in wonderful things.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, and Henry Cole

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell, and Henry Cole

The illustrated book is inspired by a real event at Central Park Zoo. Two male penguins, Roy and Silo, fell in love and raised a kid together. It challenged people’s assumptions about homosexuality and their opinion regarding the age-appropriateness of the material. Some parents have requested to have the book placed in “alternative or non-traditional families.” I think you should read this picture book for its adorable story, and gentle way of showing how all relationships are valid.

Level of ban : challenged

The Color Purple book cover

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

The Color Purple was banned in American school libraries between 1984 and 2013. Parents deemed it inappropriate for its violent and sexual content. However, the novel breaks the silence around physical and sexual abuse. It explores difficult themes with honesty and tenderness. The protagonist navigates sexuality and self-acceptance in a setting that wants to shun her for both. This banned book has won both The Pulitzer Price for Fiction and National Book Award for its courage and brilliance.

Level of ban : banned

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

After its release in 2017, this best-selling award winning book has been challenged and banned for its active conversation about racism, police brutality, and inappropriate language.

The author responded to the ban in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. “When you say ‘Black Lives Matter’ to three different people, you get 30 different reactions,” Thomas says. “There are so many misunderstandings. There’s the assumption that it’s an anti-police book, when the fact is it’s anti–police brutality.” She replied in regard to the language: “There are books with way more curse words in them, for one. And two, there are 89 F-bombs in The Hate U Give. But there were 800 people killed by police officers last year alone.”

Level of ban : banned

banned books

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This dystopian novel has been challenged multiple times for its “vulgarity, sexual overtones and anti-Christian themes.” In a world where women are stripped of their right over their own body and not allowed to read, our protagonist Offred (belonging to her Commander Fred) tries hard to keep herself alive. This brilliant work acknowledges the suffocation of patriarchy and our absolute worst fears.

Level of ban : challenged & banned

The Complete Persepolis cover

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Apart from an expected ban in Iraq, the book hadn’t met much protest in the U.S. until 2013, when it was pushed to be banned from Chicago’s public high schools.

The reason I think you should read this book is summed up in the author’s introduction: “This is why writing Persepolis was so important to me. I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists. I also don’t want those Iranians who lost their lives in prisons defending freedom, who died in the war against Iraq, who suffered under various repressive regimes, or who were forced to leave their families and fee their homeland to be forgotten. One can forgive but one should never forget.”

Level of ban : banned

Also check out “Literature locked up” supports an end to US Prison Book Ban for Banned Books Week, Judy Blume’s 40 Years Censorship Fight, and On The Visibility Of HIV and AIDS in Literature.