Roundabout Books is proud to be participating in this year’s Banned Books Week (September 18 – September 24, 2022). Launched in 1982, Banned Books Week is the annual celebration of the freedom to read and brings together the entire book community. We invite you to take a few minutes to read the information below and consider the impact that banned and censured books have on the communities and culture we live in.
The efforts to inhibit the freedom to read has intensified more in the last year than in the past 20. At Roundabout, we consider the freedom to read to be a cornerstone of our mission. As booksellers, we believe in protecting the rights of readers and the importance of representation. We condemn the current wave of book banning in schools and libraries as threats to both the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Every year, Banned Books Week highlights the American Library Association’s (ALA) Top 10 Most Challenged Books from the previous year. ALA tracked 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2021, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals. These are the highest figures ALA has seen since it started compiling challenges more than 20 years ago.
It is critical that young people of all experiences and identities see themselves reflected in books and see experiences and identities different from their own. For example, when books by Black or LGBTQIA+ authors are banned, ignorance and prejudice are left unchallenged and can reinforce feelings of isolation, marginalization, and shame among young people who identify as members underrepresented groups. In order to understand people’s lived experiences today and shape a better tomorrow, we must acknowledge how these experiences are influenced by policies that marginalize certain groups.
The censorship and diversity issues are compounded when you begin to understand how buying trends are changing at the industries largest retailers. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have announced buying cutbacks. This Shelf Awareness Article shares publisher concerns about a range of changing policies, including the new focus on buying frontlist titles with a proven sales record, and for children's books, limiting purchases to "the top 2% of books." Retail is hard, and as a a shop owner and frontlist buyer, I deeply sympathize with how frustrating it is to take a chance on a book and then not see the sales translate in the store. But these changes also highlight how ever more important indie bookstores are becoming in the changing landscape of publishing and bookselling.
Roundabout Books, and other indie bookstores, strive to be havens of discoverability. We buy with the intention of seeking out new voices to bring forward. We take chances on debuts. We buy diverse books that promote empathy, understanding, confidence, and growth — which we all, regardless of politics, want for our young people. The collection we painstakingly curate within our own shop walls is done with the utmost care, each and every decision made by myself and our booksellers who live and work and know our community. Thank you for shopping with us and supporting our efforts to curate diverse titles, and thank you for reading banned and challenged books each year. Please stop in this month to explore our banned book display and pick up your next great read.
Here are the most Challenged and Banned Books from 2021.