Just a month after announcing its decision to offer free digital library cards to people across the U.S. in response to book bans, the city's three public library systems have launched a new Banned Books Challenge that seeks to stand against the practice of censorship.
Expert librarians from the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Public Library have selected ten banned or challenged books they recommend New Yorkers borrow and read.
Here are the highlighted titles:
- The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
- Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
- Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
- All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson
- Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
- Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez
- This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
To kick things off, the library has announced that one of the selected books, Malinda Lo's Last Night at the Telegraph Club, will be made available for free via e-reader apps from now through June 26 (when the challenge officially ends). That means you won't even have to wait to get your hands on it.
Some library branches are also going to host book club discussions about the picks, those will likely be targeted at teens since many banned titles are YA novels and the demographic has been mostly impacted by the new censorship practices that seem to have taken over the country.
"The American Library Association (ALA) recently announced that it tracked an 'unprecedented' number of challenges to library, school, and university materials in 2021: 729 challenges to 1,597 individual books," reads an official press release about the challenge. "This is more than double the challenges tracked in 2019. The books being challenged often focus on race, LGBTQ+ issues, religion, and history."
"The Library’s role is to make sure no perspective, no idea, no identity is erased," said Anthony W. Marx, president of The New York Public Library, in an official statement. "To ensure free and open access to knowledge and information. Book bans are in direct conflict with that noble mission, and we cannot be silent. The Banned Books Challenge is just one way we can bring people together and shine a light on this issue. We hope as many New Yorkers as possible will participate, learn and understand each other, and then do what we all must do: exercise our freedom to read by exploring the library and reading as many books as possible."
But that's not all: the Queens Public Library has also revealed that, in honor of Pride Month in June, it will make an additional 10 LGBTQ-themed challenged or banned titles "always available" digitally. Those books have yet to be selected—but we'll make sure to let you know about them when officially announced.