“Banned Spotlight” Highlights Stories of Censorship

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The Banned Books Week Coalition website will feature “Banned Spotlight” stories featuring different banned books in the lead-up to Banned Books Week 2018.

Banned Books Week is the annual celebration of the freedom to read. This year’s September 23–29 celebration will be centered on the theme “Banning Books Silences Stories,” a reminder that everyone needs to speak out against the tide of censorship.

I Am Jazz book cover, by Jazz JenningsEach Banned Spotlight will highlight a banned or challenged book. The first Spotlight features I Am Jazz, Jazz Jennings’ autobiographical picture book (Dial Books). In the book, Jennings shares her experience as a transgender child, including her family’s confusion over and acceptance of her gender identity.

The book was challenged in 2017 at Rocklin Academy Gateway in Rocklin, California, after a kindergarten student undergoing gender transition brought in a copy of I Am Jazz, which was read aloud to the class. In response, several parents removed their children from the school and called for a policy that would allow them to choose to keep their children from sharing a classroom with a transgender student.

The school affirmed the inclusion of LGBTQ literature in their classrooms and rejected the parents’ discriminatory proposed policy; however, the school’s administration chose to add a policy to forewarn parents about “controversial” material, which could invite future complaints.

I Am Jazz was included on the American Library Association’s (ALA) list of the top 10 most challenged and banned books in 2017. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles the top 10 list each year. For 2017, the list — which features just a small fraction of the 416 books challenged or banned that year — offers insight into some of the common themes that are challenged: LGBTQ issues, sex education, profanity, alleged “promotion of Islam” and sexually explicit content.

Booksellers who are planning their own Banned Books Week events should fill out this form or e-mail ABA Advocacy and Public Policy Coordinator Maria Peroni with details of the event for inclusion on the Banned Books Week events calendar.