April 3-9 is National Library Week, a time to celebrate libraries, library workers, and to promote library use and support! As the American Library Association observes, this year’s celebration comes as efforts to ban certain books from school curricula and libraries have risen sharply across the nation. In 2021, at least nine school divisions in Virginia considered, attempted, or successfully executed bans on library material.
According to an article, “To Ban or Not to Ban? Virginia’s Schools Caught in a Battlefield” in the online magazine Dogwood, a majority of the threatened titles “are about racial disenfranchisement, LGBTQ issues, or were written by authors of color.” The question then is: Are these books being challenged, as is frequently claimed, for sexually explicit or violent content and language, or instead as a means of silencing voices of protest in a diverse society?
Ashley Hosbach, UVA’s Education and Social Science Research Librarian, believes it should be “a priority for academic librarians who curate K-12 collections for teacher’s education programs … to purchase banned books to ensure they remain in circulation, [exposing] our students to diverse perspectives.” The following threatened titles have been curated and collected by Hosbach for the Children’s and Young Adult literature collection in Brown Science & Engineering Library, where they are available for all to enjoy and learn from:
“A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart” by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Noa Denmon
Named by the National Council of Teachers of English as a notable poetry book of 2021, the book tells the story of a boy working through feelings of fear and anger to reach a sense of pride and peace in the aftermath of a police shooting in his community. It is currently being considered for banning from Hanover County schools due to Black Lives Matter content and a supposed anti-police stance.
“Born on the Water” by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, illustrated by Nikkolas Smith
Part of the New York Times’ “1619 Project,” this is a lyrical story of a girl learning from her grandmother about her ancestors, the consequences of slavery, and the history of Black resistance in the United States. It was banned in York County, PA, until a student protest overturned the decision.
“Go with the Flow” by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann
This comics-style novel relates the experiences of four teenage girls who open up to each other about the impact of menstruation on their lives. For dealing with a normal aspect of women’s health, the book was placed on list of books to be banned in Texas after claims of indecency.
“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
Winner of multiple awards, Angie Thomas’ debut novel tells about an African American teenage girl whose student life in an affluent prep school and family life in a poor neighborhood are disrupted when she bears witness to the slaying of a friend by police. It is one of the most commonly banned books in the nation due to its supposed anti-police and Black Lives Matter stance.
“Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan” by Jeanette Winter
Tells the true story of a young girl who stops talking when her father is kidnapped after the Taliban take control of her Afghan village, and how her grandmother smuggles her to an underground school where she breaks free of her silence as she learns to read and write. Ironically, this book about the healing power of learning from forbidden books has been banned in many places because of violent content and the depiction of Islamic religious practice.
“And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole
The story of two male penguins in New York City’s Central Park Zoo who fall in love and start a family by taking turns sitting on an abandoned egg until it hatches. It has been challenged many times for featuring a same-sex couple as loving parents.