Banned Books Week: 2020

Sheryn Morris, Librarian, Literature & Fiction,
red orange yellow flames with banned books
During Banned Books Week we celebrate freedom of speech and freedom to read

Over the centuries, various forms of expression have been banned or destroyed, and their creators have been censored, imprisoned, tortured, killed, exiled. It is the mission and responsibility of libraries to present multifarious viewpoints, and that is why the American Library Association joins other organizations to support Banned Books Week. During Banned Books Week we celebrate freedom of speech and freedom to read. This year was a time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ray Bradbury by a virtual read-a-thon of Fahrenheit 451. Among those who participated were: John Szabo, City Librarian; Joyce Cooper, Interim Director, Branch Library Services; Ani Boyadjian, Research & Special Collections Manager; and Heawon Pak, Senior Librarian, Access Services.

Loud and Clear: Writers Who Found Ways to Express Themselves

Book cover for Fahrenheit 451
Fahrenheit 451
Bradbury, Ray

2020 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Ray Bradbury, who wrote this dystopian novel about the attempt to regulate freedom of thought by burning books.

Book cover for A Pleasure to Burn: Fahrenheit 451 Stories
A Pleasure to Burn: Fahrenheit 451 Stories
Bradbury, Ray

In this compilation of the shorter works of Ray Bradbury readers can see the background story and precursors to the creation of Fahrenheit 451, that famously infamous novel.

Book cover for Ai Weiwei: Yours Truly
Ai Weiwei: Yours Truly
Ai, Weiwei

Living in exile in Berlin and England, the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei continues to express his opinions visually and verbally. Yours Truly is one part of a larger art installation that was on Alcatraz, 2014 - 2015.

Book cover for Before Night Falls
Before Night Falls
Arenas, Reinaldo

Reinaldo Arenas was initially supportive of Fidel Casto, but later was outspoken in his criticism, and as a consequence his writing was censored. As a gay man he was especially vulnerable, which resulted in his arrest, imprisonment and torture.

Book cover for Burn This Book: PEN Writers Speak Out on the Power of the Word
Burn This Book: PEN Writers Speak Out on the Power of the Word

PEN is an organization of poets, playwrights, editors, essayists and novelists. In this collection of essays writers discuss the importance and value of freedom of thought and expression.

Book cover for Garden by the Sea
Garden by the Sea
Rodoreda, Mercè

Written in Catalan, Mercè Rodoreda’s novel has been newly translated into English. Set in Spain during the 1920s, this is a poignant novel of grandeur and dissolution told from the perspective of the gardener of a villa. He observes family members, neighbors and guests over several decades. Mercè Rodoreda lived in exile after the end of the Spanish Civil War. Her novel Time of the Doves is set in Barcelona before, during and after the war.

Book cover for Harry Potter and the Cedarville Censors
Harry Potter and the Cedarville Censors
Meadors, Brian

In 2002 in Cedarville Arkansas, a parent’s concern about witchcraft in the Harry Potter books caused the book to be banned from public school libraries. A school librarian and a fourth-grade girl fought back.

Book cover for In the Night Kitchen
In the Night Kitchen
Sendak, Maurice

Among the many beloved books by Maurice Sendak, this book, published in 1970, has been on the American Library Association’s “100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1999 - 2009”. Check out the book and see if you can figure out the reason.

Book cover for Love and Other Stories
Love and Other Stories
Déry, Tibor

Tibor Déry is one of Hungary’s most exalted writers. His life could have been a template for a work by Kafka. His work was never in step with the numerous political ideologies and regimes, which then justified censoring, exile, or arrest. His brilliant short stories have been compared to those of another master, Chekhov.

Book cover for The Palace of Dreams
The Palace of Dreams
Kadare, Ismail

A dystopian novel set in 19th century Albania, where a department of dream interpretation seeks to know and control every aspect of the lives of its citizens. One missed explanation causes a major calamity. It is ostensibly about dictatorships, and was immediately banned in 1981 when first published. In Albania novels by Ismail Kadare have been banned; the writer was forbidden to write; sent to a work camp as punishment; threatened with elimination, had his works smuggled out of the country; and finally went into exile. He lives in France where he is still writing today.

Book cover for Then They Came For Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival
Then They Came For Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival
Bahari, Maziar.

Iranian Canadian journalist Bahari Maziar returned to Iran after the controversial 2009 Presidential elections. He was imprisoned and tortured for 118 days because the regime said he was a spy...After his release, Maziar surmised his arrest was a warning to other journalists.

Book cover for The Time of Mute Swans
The Time of Mute Swans
Temelkuran, Ece

Two young children, from different social backgrounds, witness the 1980 military coup in Turkey. Journalist Ece Temelkuran based her novel on historical events. As a journalist and writer who was critical of the Turkish government and its policies, she was fired from one job. At the present time she does not live in Turkey, but writes freely and openly for many international publications.


The following watchdog organizations provide continuous information about writers and others who are being censored, tortured, jailed or exiled. You can stay informed by subscribing to their emails.