Adult Readers Advisory

We Read Banned Books: Celebrating Banned Books Week

Your librarians read banned books! Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating freedom of expression and the freedom to read.

Banned Books week was first launched in 1982 in response to the number of challenges to books in libraries, schools, and bookstores. The celebration has taken place during the last week of September for many years and it is intended to draw national attention to the harms of censorship. 

Books continue to be banned or challenged in the United States. At Norwich Public Library we celebrate the many historically banned or challenged books that are in our collection and available for loan.

On Friday, September 27 we’ll be wearing t-shirts of banned book covers, with thanks to Beth Reynolds for her work ironing on images of transfers. 

Here are our picks for our Banned Book T-Shirts:  

Things Fall Apart (1958), Chinua Achebe. Challenged for its portrayal of colonialism and its consequences and has been reportedly banned in Malaysia and Nigeria. In 2012, it was challenged in Texas schools. 

Things Fall Apart blew my mind when I first read it in high school and provided me with new themes for thinking about our world. The 60th anniversary edition’s cover is illustrated by contemporary artist Victor Ekpuk, who creates abstract paintings and drawings informed by nsibidi, an indigenous writing system in Nigeria, and other global texts. — Roger

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (1970), Judy Blume. Frequently banned or challenged for content reasons. 

I loved this book when I was in fifth grade.  It addressed the issues of puberty and female sexual development openly and thoughtfully.  I, like so many girls, grew up in a home where these topics were taboo and not spoken of. Yes, I do understand that the content might make people uncomfortable.  However, there are many more young girls entering puberty that benefit from the celebration of their transition to womanhood that deserve to have accessible titles on these topics.  Banning this book shames girls and stigmatizes a normal and natural body process unnecessarily. — Kate 

Howl (1955), Allen Ginsberg. U.S. Customs confiscated  over five hundred copies of the book in 1955  and the publisher was arrested. It is frequently contested for its imagery, themes, and content. 

I’ve always loved Howl’s distinctive book design and first read it when I was in college. However, it really came to life when I heard Allen Ginsberg reading excerpts of it in the ‘80s when my husband studied with him.  — Lucinda

And Tango Makes Three (2005), Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell; illustrated by Henry Cole. Appears frequently on the American Library Association’s list of challenged books for the book’s depiction of same-sex relationship between penguins

Often times when we think of Banned Books we focus on chapter books for kids in the upper grades. I really wanted to bring some attention to the picturebooks. And honestly, this story of two male penguins trying to hatch an egg has always charmed me. A sweet, simple story with delightful illustrations. — Beth 

Harry Potter (1997), J.K. Rowling.  Frequently challenged or banned for its supposed themes of witchcraft and the occult. 

I was a Harry Potter hold out who, once I started reading it, became a Harry Potter fan. These books are so captivating, they continue to convince even the most reluctant readers that books can be magic.— Nancy 

Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), Kurt Vonnegut  

I was starting college and this title was on my freshman English reading list. This book was my first reading experience of a war through an unheroic survivor’s eyes and words. Sharing our reactions to the book in a class setting added fuel to my developing anti-war sentiment. In short, this book changed my reading appetite and ignited my political activism. — Sydney