by Stacey Embry, Director, Morgan County Library
Banned Books Week
Guess what next week is? Yep, it is the annual celebration of the freedom to read that was started in 1982, Banned Books Week.
“Each year, librarians, booksellers, teachers, and countless others take this opportunity to highlight the importance of intellectual freedom and remind us not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted.”
– American Library Association

Preach it, ALA! The importance of intellectual freedom, this precious democratic freedom, yes, yes, yes! 1982, yep, 40 years of talking about this issue and we continue to fight.
This year’s theme is “Books Unite Us, Censorship Divides Us.” Man, I have preached this sermon a multitude of times. We have talked about mirrors and windows, my stuff might not be your stuff, etc., but I really do love this theme even more. It is so simple, but sums it up.
Books have the power to unite us, censorship, well, let me just share this quote. “When you erase the history/experience of one kid to “protect” another, what you’re also saying is that there is one type of kid worth protecting.”
– B.B. Alston, No. 1 New York Times bestselling author of “Amari and the Night Brothers” and “Amari and the Great Game.”
These are the top 10 banned books of 2021: Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson, Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin.
The ALA has a list for each year back to 2021: https://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks/top10. Read them all, or don’t. It is, and should always be, up to the reader to make that choice.
There is also a page dedicated to banned and challenged classics listing not only the book, but the reasons and actions taken.
Here are a few of my favorites: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, like most of the titles listed has multiple challenges, including one due to the words “damn” and “whore lady” used in the novel (1977) and another referring to it as a “filthy, trashy novel” (1980). In 1973, a bookseller in Orem, Utah was arrested for selling the novel, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, The Call of the Wild by Jack London and A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway were all burned in the Nazi bonfires. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien was burned in 2001 outside a church in New Mexico because his novels were seen as satanic. In total, there are 46 titles that, when printed with the multitude of reasons listed, amounts to 17 pages. If you get bored or maybe just angry, like me, go check it out.
After viewing the ridiculousness concerning the classics, it can give a person false hope, maybe it all takes care of itself in the end, hmmm. At the beginning of August, a small town in Michigan de-funded their library because the library refused to remove LBGTQ+ content from the collection. Forty years of celebrating the freedom to read, apparently not everyone is participating in the celebration. Apparently only certain kids are worth protecting. Boo.
Intellectual freedom. Democratic freedom. Books unite us. Censorship divides us. Mirrors and windows. You and me, us. All of us. I will say that again, ALL of us.
Upcoming Events: 9/14 Story Time 10 a.m.; 9/17 Ranch House Story Time at 9 a.m.; 9/17 Last Farmers’ Market of the season 9 a.m. to noon. Sign up for our Bookopoly Reading Challenge
For more information, visit the Morgan County Library at 600 N. Hunter, call 573-378-5319 or see the library’s Web site at morgancountylibrary.org. Library hours are 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.