It’s Banned Books Week! Traditionally observed the last week in September, Banned Books Week is a time when the American Library Association, the Association of University Presses, and other organizations draw attention to past and present attempts to censor books.
Banned Books Week also highlights the ALA’s annual list of the top 10 most challenged books. When we say that these books were “challenged,” we mean that someone tried to have them removed or restricted in a library or school. Common reasons for challenges in 2020 included LGBTQIA+ content, perceived anti-police sentiment, and issues having to do with race.
You’ll find several of the ten most challenged books of 2020 in the Law Library’s collection. They include:
- Ibram X. Kendi & Jason Reynolds, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (2020). (#2) (Also available as an ebook.)
- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (HarperPerennial 2002) (1960). (#7)
- Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (Vintage International 2007) (1970). (#9)
- Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give (2017) (#10) (We have the film adaptation of this work. You could also stream it or request the print book from another UVA library.)
For librarians in schools and public libraries, responding to challenges can be a complicated part of the job—one that implicates professional values like intellectual freedom and social responsibility. Thus, Banned Books Week is more than a chance to speak out against censorship; it’s also an opportunity to reflect on the values that animate our daily work.
For those of us in the legal field, Banned Books Week is an occasion to celebrate free speech, and perhaps to consider its benefits, limitations, and potential for change. Here at UVA, we’re lucky to work with scholars who have written thoughtfully on these topics. For example:
- In her article Another First Amendment, Professor Leslie Kendrick asks, “What can the First Amendment accomplish in society?” The article explains how we could reimagine the scope of freedom of speech and considers whether free speech has the capacity to influence social values.
- Professor Frederick Shauer is an editor (with Adrienne Stone) of The Oxford Handbook of Freedom of Speech, and wrote chapters titled “What is Speech? The Question of Coverage” and “Free Speech and Commercial Advertising.”
- Professors Shauer and Kendrick, along with Dean Risa Goluboff, contributed essays addressing the First Amendment to the collection Charlottesville 2017: The Legacy of Race and Inequity.
In honor of Banned Books Week, we’ve created a pop-up display highlighting some of the works mentioned in this post. We encourage you to take a look and enjoy your freedom to read!