“Why don’t I try writing the book I would have wanted to see?” Alex Gino recalls thinking in this archived webinar marking Banned Books Week. While that might seem a sound course for any aspiring author, the result of that almost anodyne impulse Gino’s book George, is something other people don’t want you to see. George, which tells the story of a 10-year-old transgender girl, has been one of the top 10 banned books since it came out in 2015.
Gino was one of three panelists on the webinar, which was moderated by Jemimah Steinfeld, deputy editor of Index on Censorship. Joining them were Brandy Colbert, author of Little & Lion, Pointe, Finding Yvonne, and the forthcoming The Revolution of Birdie Randolph; and Marni A. Brown, assistant professor of sociology in the School of Liberal Arts at Georgia Gwinnett College. The full webinar, “Speaking Out: Voicing Movements in the Face of Censorship,” is archived below.
Each year since 1982 the American Library Association has spearheaded a celebration of books that have been suppressed or banned. As the organization explains, “Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” For 2018, Banned Books Week takes place September 23–29 and is themed, “Banning Books Silences Stories.”
The week spotlights a top 10 list of books that received flak in the previous year. The current list is headed by Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why and includes perennial entries like The Kite Runner and To Kill a Mockingbird. George appears at No. 5.
For Gino and Colbert, their story books have been suppressed. By school libraries, to the detriment of the community at large, said Brown. “The work that Brandy and Alex are doing is so important and I can’t express how valuable it is. And I’ve noticed in the classroom that when kids read these books, they are able to be more open. They have opened their minds to the ways in which human lives can be expressed.”
“It’s really insulting,” said Colbert, “when adults say books are inappropriate for kids because of the content, when there are so many kids living these lives. It tells these kids that their lives are unacceptable. And kids need to see this to get that empathy and understanding.”
The webinar, sponsored by SAGE Publishing, the parent of Social Science Space, concludes with book recommendations by the three panelists for the books they’d like to see others reading::
- Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung, recommended by Gino
- Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson, recommended by Colbert
- Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins, recommended by Brown