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  • Writer's pictureKristina Riffle

Happy Banned Books Week!

Every year, libraries, schools, and teachers across the country celebrate Banned Books Week and the freedom to read. Unfortunately, the freedom to read in America is under attack as people try to limit access to reading materials and censor what is deemed controversial by themselves. In 1982, the Supreme Court ruled that school officials cannot ban books in libraries simply because of their content. However, books are still being challenged and banned today.

Shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, banned books were showcased at the entrance to the convention center of the 1982 American Booksellers Association (ABA) BookExpo. They towered large, padlocked metal cages, with 500 challenged books stacked inside, and a sign cautioning that the books were dangerous. Drawing on the success of the exhibit, the ABA helped create a new initiative called Banned Books Week. The initiative took off; Banned Books Week is typically held during the last week of September, and it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Today, Banned Books Week coverage reaches an estimated 2.8 billion readers. We are celebrating banned books this week, from September 26 to October 2, 2021 and the theme is "Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us."

While books continue to be banned, Banned Books Week celebrates that most books have remained available. This happens only due to the librarians, teachers, students, and community members who speak out for the freedom to read. There are hundreds of challenged books every year; the Top 10 Challenged Books of 2020 were:

  1. George by Alex Gino.

  2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds.

  3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.

  4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

  6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin.

  7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

  8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

  9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.

  10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

Do you believe in the freedom to read? Are you an aspiring author hoping to change the world with your words? Do you have a book idea that will challenge young minds? Here are some of our favorite grants, scholarships, and fellowships available to authors.

  • The RFK Book Award recognizes authors whose works of moral insight and imagination uphold a vision of political inclusion, compassion, and justice.

  • The Andy Warhol Foundation Writers Grant supports emerging and established writers who write about contemporary visual art.

  • The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, administered by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, recognize student achievement in the visual arts and creative writing.

  • The Barbara Deming Memorial Fund provides grants to individual feminist writers and visual artists in the U.S. and Canada.

  • The Elizabeth George Foundation provides grants to short story writers, poets, unpublished novelists, emerging playwrights, and unpublished creative non-fiction writers living in the United States.

  • The Fine Arts Work Center offers a residency program for writers and visual artists in the crucial early stages of their careers.

  • The Mesa Refuge is a residency for writers, filmmakers, audio journalists, and other creatives, located in Point Reyes Station, CA. Its mission is to provide a quiet and inspiring space for people writing about ways to create a more just and sustainable world.

  • The PEN America Writing for Justice Fellowship aims to harness the power of writers and writing in bearing witness to the societal consequences of mass incarceration by capturing and sharing the stories of incarcerated individuals, their families, communities, and the wider impact of the criminal justice system.

  • Creative Capital supports innovative and adventurous authors and artists across the country through funding, counsel, and career development services.

Celebrate your freedom to read during Banned Books Week! Visit your local library, read a book that has been challenged, or apply for a grant to help you start writing your next book. How will you be celebrating?

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