I Want You to Read What They Don’t Want Us to Read

Holy cats, how did it get to be September already? Don’t ask me how, but we are definitely here! The good news is that we find ourselves looking at a new reading challenge. Read the book, post a photo of it with #everettreads, and be entered into a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card courtesy of the Friends of the Everett Public Library. Thanks, Friends! This month we’re going to read a book that was banned or challenged.

What is book banning, and what is the difference between banning a book and challenging one? I’ll let the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom explain:

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.  Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.

Have you heard me say lately that librarians and library staff are fierce protectors of intellectual freedom and your right to choose what you read? Because it’s true, and nowhere is this more obvious than when we talk about challenges to library materials in the attempt to prevent others from accessing them. You know–censorship.

Reasons for book challenges in 2018.

These are actual reasons why folks tried to have books banned last year.

Banned Books Week is September 22-28, 2019. However, we can get a jump start on this month’s EPL reading challenge by checking out the list of the most challenged books of 2018:

George by Alex Gino
Reasons: banned, challenged, and relocated because it was believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones, and for mentioning “dirty magazines,” describing male anatomy, “creating confusion,” and including a transgender character.


A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ content, and for political and religious viewpoints.



Captain Underpants series written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: series was challenged because it was perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior, while Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot was challenged for including a same-sex couple.


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Reasons: banned and challenged because it was deemed “anti-cop,” and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references.




Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ characters and themes.




Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Reasons: banned, challenged, and restricted for addressing teen suicide.




This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
Reasons: banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and certain illustrations.



Skippyjon Jones series written and illustrated by Judy Schachner
Reason: challenged for depicting stereotypes of Mexican culture.



The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: banned and challenged for sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling, and underage drinking, and for its religious viewpoint.



This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten
Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content.


Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content.




You’ll notice that the final two books on the list, This Day in June and Two Boys Kissing, were also burned. BURNED. It’s the twenty-first century and some folks are still so threatened by certain ideas that they will light books on FIRE. I’d say it’s unbelievable but I remember all too well this report of a 2018 book burning. This Day in June and Two Boys Kissing, in addition to Families, Families, Families! by Suzanne & Max Lang and Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino were checked out from an Iowa public library and burned. The person responsible recorded it all on video and posted it online as a “protest.”

Stories like that make my skin crawl.

If you tell me the “problems” with a book you’re just going to make me want to read it even more; double that if you tell me that certain illustrations are why you’re trying to prevent folks from reading it. I am absolutely going to read This One Summer.

What banned or challenged book are you going to read? You can tell me in the comments, or you can take it one step further and participate in the Dear Banned Author postcard writing campaign. Write a postcard (author mailing addresses listed here) or tweet an author of a banned/challenged/burned book. Let them know what the stories you read mean to you and show your support.

To all you authors of challenged, banned, and burned books: thank you.

2012 Everett Reads! with Sherman Alexie

In case you haven’t heard, our 2012 Everett Reads! author is Sherman Alexie. From his large body of work, we’ve chosen his National Book Award for Young People’s Literature winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian as the focus for this year’s program.

For many people Alexie first appeared on their radar with 1998’s film Smoke Signals (Alexie wrote the screenplay, based on his 1993 novel The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven). This was America’s first glance at Alexie’s accessible yet poignant humor and unique perspective on American Indian history.

Absolutely True has endured  since its original publication in 2007, and copies fly off the shelves at bookstores and libraries alike. Alexie’s often humorous-yet-serious insight into social issues, familial issues, teen angst, American Indian and popular culture continues to resonate.

Alexie is a renowned speaker, best known for his dry humor and honest,  genuine style. He is also an accomplished poet, having won several prestigious poetry awards. His work is also enjoyed by a wide-ranging age-group, and initially, this was one of the primary reasons we selected Absolutely True. Just a few months ago the library celebrated the grand-opening of its long-awaited Teen Zone, a space just for teens in the Main Library, and we wanted 2012’s Everett Reads! to compliment this momentous improvement. Alexie was the perfect choice.

There are so many great things that can be said about Absolutely True and Alexie’s accomplished body of work. But don’t take it from us, instead come discover them on your own. To aid you we’ve scheduled a series of events and speakers that will bring out Alexie’s many talents and that will hopefully inspire discussion throughout our community.

The fun starts this Saturday, February 4th at 7 pm with Alexie’s visit to Everett’s Performing Arts Center. After being inspired by the author, be sure to check out the other programs throughout the month of February. These include a fine selection of films, book discussions, programs on local tribal history, and, of course, a program about cartooning. 

Be sure to read, or listen to Alexie’s own narration of the book this month courtesy of the Everett Public Library. Until then, I leave you with one of Alexie’s recent poems to ponder (published in the May 16, 2011 issue of the New Yorker magazine):

A Facebook Sonnet

Welcome to the endless high-school
Reunion. Welcome to past friends
And lovers, however kind or cruel.
Let’s undervalue and unmend

The present. Why can’t we pretend
Every stage of life is the same?
Let’s exhume, resume, and extend
Childhood. Let’s play all the games

That occupy the young. Let fame
And shame intertwine. Let one’s search
For God become public domain.
Let church.com become our church.

Let’s sign up, sign in, and confess
Here at the altar of loneliness