A new monthly book club seeks to highlight the “alarming” number of titles being banned from communities in the US by offering free, month-long discussions about award-winning books that have been removed from schools or libraries.
On Thursday, The Author’s Guild announced the launch of its first-ever Banned Books Club, a club where readers will have a chance to participate in discussions of commonly banned or censored books in virtual talks led by the book’s author.
The project was created “in response to the alarming number of states and school boards which have recently banned a wide number of books and other resources from school curriculums or libraries,” according to Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild.
Through a partnership with the book club app Fable, the Guild — the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit advocacy organization for professional writers and journalists — will offer a different book, nonfiction or fiction, every month to book club participants; works that have been recently barred in at least one school district in the country.
“Our goal is to give both students and adults the opportunity to read and learn more about the books being banned in their districts and elsewhere and provide the rare opportunity to engage on the platform with the authors of those works,” Rasenberger said. “We hope this will spark discussions across the country about the value of a diverse body of literature and the harm book banning causes by ‘erasing’ the unique experiences and perspectives of marginalized voices.”
The first title featured in the Banned Books Club is “Two Boys Kissing,” a 2013 young adult novel written by David Levithan.
The bestselling book, which ranks no. 18 on the American Library Association’s Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the past decade, tells the story of two 17-year-old boys, Harry and Craig, who decide to participate in a 32-hour kissing marathon to set a new Guinness World Record – all of it narrated by a Greek Chorus of the generation of gay men lost to AIDS.
Levithan, who will lead the month-long discussion, said that he is “pleased” to be part of the project, “which will be a great forum to discuss not only why these books are being challenged, but how to support the kids who are disenfranchised by such challenges.”
Earlier this month a report by the American Library Association found that there were 729 challenges to more than 1,500 books in 2021 — almost double the number in 2019. That was the highest number of attempted book bans in 20 years, according to the ALA. Titles often focus on LGBTQ issues, race, religion and history.
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“The growing epidemic of book banning and legislation that undermines the freedom to read across the United States is something we all must stand up against, both on behalf of the freedom to read itself and for all the young readers who need to see their stories being told,” said Levithan.
Both the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Public Library systems have recently launched national campaigns to address the unprecedented number of challenged books this year, extending memberships to young people all across the country.
“Brooklyn Public Library stands firmly against censorship and for the principles of intellectual freedom—the right of every individual to seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction,” Nick Higgins, BPL chief librarian, told the Daily News last week. “Limiting access or providing one-sided information is a threat to democracy itself.”
“These recent instances of censorship and book banning are extremely disturbing and amount to an all-out attack on the very foundation of our democracy,” added Anthony W. Marx, NYPL president.
“Knowledge is power; ignorance is dangerous and breeds hate and division. Since their inception, public libraries have worked to combat these forces simply by making all perspectives and ideas accessible to all, regardless of background or circumstance,” he said.