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5 Banned Books on Gender Identity, Sexuality, and Women's Rights

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In the library world, we believe in the right to read and the freedom to choose what we want to read. Banned Books Week (September 27th— October 3rd) brings together those working in the world of books and literacy under a common goal: the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those that might be unorthodox or unpopular. Within the 10 most challenged books of 2019, I can proudly say that the Respect Together library collections hold five of those books in our collections.

George by Alex Gino tells the story of George, a girl whose sex was assigned male at birth. George thinks she’ll have to keep her secret forever. However, with the help of her best friend, George comes up with a plan so that everyone will know who she is once and for all. This book is written for grades three to seven.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin brings together interviews the author conducted among six transgender or gender-neutral young adults. She then used her talents to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgement of gender preference. Photographs and candid images help pull together the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each discussion is completely different because of the individuality of each person.

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings is about a young woman who knew from the time she was two years old that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn’t feel like herself in boys’ clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that she was transgender and born that way. Jazz’s story is based on her real-life experiences, and she tells it in a simple, clear way that will be appreciated by picture book readers and their parents and teachers.

Sex is A Funny Word by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth is a comic book for kids which includes children and families of all makeups, orientations, and gender identities. This book is an essential resource about bodies, gender, and sexuality for children ages eight to 10, as well as their parents and caregivers. Much more than the “facts of life” or “birds and the bees,” Sex is a Funny Word opens up conversations between young people and their caregivers in a way that allows adults to convey their values and beliefs while providing information about boundaries, safety, and joy.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, a fictional dystopian novel, tells a story of environmental disasters and declining birth rates, which have led to a Second American Civil War. The result is also the rise of the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian regime that enforces rigid social roles and enslaves the few remaining fertile women. The protagonist Offred is one of these women, a Handmaid bound to produce children for one of Gilead’s commanders. Deprived of her husband, her child, her freedom, and even her own name, Offred clings to her memories and her will to survive.

The theme for Banned Books Week 2020 is Censorship is Dead: Find Your Freedom to Read. As a library, we embrace this theme wholeheartedly. We believe in giving everyone the opportunity to choose for themselves what they do and do not want to read. Knowledge is power, and we will do whatever is in our power to ensure that our library offers all we can to any and all who seek it. I fully encourage everyone to check out the Respect Together library collections for yourselves. As always, I wish you a fabulous day and happy reading!