Banned Book Week 2023 is a week-long annual event dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of intellectual freedom and the ongoing challenges of censorship in literature. Held the first week of October, Banned Book Week is a celebration of advocacy and education surrounding the freedom to read. This week our Literary Director Theresa Davis shared her favorite banned books on her reading lists from her time as a Middle School teacher.
"Whale Talk" by Chris Crutcher is a young adult novel that tells the story of T.J. Jones, a mixed-race teenager who assembles an unlikely high school swim team composed of outcasts and misfits. Through their struggles and determination, they challenge stereotypes, racism, and personal demons. T.J. uses his passion for competitive swimming to bring his diverse team together, aiming for success both in the pool and in life. The novel explores themes of identity, racism, friendship, and resilience, offering a thought-provoking and inspiring narrative that resonates with readers of all ages.
"The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier is a compelling young adult novel that delves into the dark and disturbing aspects of high school conformity and bullying. The story revolves around Jerry Renault, a student who defies the school's manipulative administration and refuses to participate in the annual chocolate fundraiser. His solitary stand against the corrupt system triggers a chain of events that exposes the cruelty and coercion within the student body. The novel explores themes of rebellion, peer pressure, and the consequences of non-conformity, ultimately leaving readers with a chilling portrayal of the psychological and emotional toll of resistance in an oppressive environment.
"The Poet X" by Elizabeth Acevedo is a powerful novel-in-verse that follows the journey of Xiomara Batista, a young Afro-Latina girl growing up in Harlem. She uses her poetry to express her innermost thoughts and frustrations, particularly in the face of her strict, religious mother's expectations. Xiomara discovers her voice through slam poetry, exploring themes of identity, religion, love, and self-discovery. The book captures her struggle to break free from societal constraints and find her own path as a poet. It's a compelling coming-of-age story that emphasizes the importance of self-expression, and it resonates with readers as it portrays the universal search for one's identity and voice.
"Animal Farm" by George Orwell is a classic allegorical novella that tells the story of a group of farm animals who overthrow their oppressive human owner and establish their own government. Initially, the animals' rebellion represents a quest for equality and justice. However, over time, the pigs, who take the role of leaders, become corrupt and oppressive themselves. The novella serves as a critique of totalitarianism and power abuse, with each animal symbolizing different elements of society. "Animal Farm" explores themes of propaganda, manipulation, and the erosion of ideals. It's a timeless work that highlights the dangers of unchecked authority and the corruption of noble intentions.
"Stuck in Neutral" by Terry Trueman is a young adult novel narrated by Shawn McDaniel, a teenage boy with cerebral palsy. Despite being unable to communicate or control his body, Shawn possesses a keen mind and a rich inner life. He grapples with thoughts of life, death, and the burdens his disability places on his family. When he suspects that his father plans to end his life to alleviate Shawn's suffering, he faces a moral dilemma. The novel explores themes of family, love, disability, and the value of life, offering a thought-provoking and empathetic perspective on living with profound physical limitations.
Banned Book Week continues to serve as a platform for celebrating the diversity of literature while highlighting the ongoing threats to intellectual freedom. It reminds us that the fight against censorship and the promotion of open access to information remains crucial in our modern society. Check out the Little Free Library at the ArtsXchange for all your banned book needs!