Public libraries in New York City are calling on New Yorkers to take a stand against book banning. The New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library on Monday launched the citywide “Banned Books Challenge,” urging New Yorkers to read 10 books that explore issues of race, sexuality, religion, and history, subjects that have been targeted for censorship in recent months. To kick off the challenge, the libraries made Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo, available for free with no waits on e-reader apps until June 26.
Image courtesy of the New York Public Library
The challenge continues the city libraries’ fight against book banning, which comes as attempts to ban certain books from libraries have increased across the country. According to the American Library Association, there were 729 attempted bans of 1,597 individual books in 2021, more than double the number recorded in 2019.
In April, the Brooklyn Public Library launched the “Books Unbanned” initiative, which gave young people around the United States over 3,500 library cards to provide access to digital copies of banned books. Similarly, the New York Public Library’s “Books For All” campaign brought in 22,000 new users for their online reading platform, as well as 10,000 e-book checkouts for banned titles, with 13 percent of usage coming from Florida, Pennsylvania, and Texas, “where high-profile bans have taken place,” according to a press release.
The “Banned Books Challenge” includes these 10 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
“The Library’s role is to make sure no perspective, no idea, no identity is erased,” Anthony W. Marx, President of The New York Public Library, said. “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.”
The new initiative comes during Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and just a week before LGBTQ Pride Month begins. The Queens Public Library said it will make 10 additional books with LGBTQ themes “always available” for online readers.
“Open access to books and information is the core mission of Brooklyn Public Library and an essential component for a thriving democracy,” Linda E. Johnson, president of the Brooklyn Public Library, said.”Reading encourages critical thinking, introduces us to diverse viewpoints and perhaps most importantly, helps young people learn to respect one another and themselves.”
Learn more about the citywide challenge here.
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