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Book Bans

The Issue

Today, books in the US are under profound attack. They are disappearing from library shelves, being challenged in droves, being decreed off limits by school boards, legislators, and prison authorities. And everywhere, it is the books that have long fought for a place on the shelf that are being targeted. Books by authors of color, by LGBTQ+ authors, by women. Books about racism, sexuality, gender, history. PEN America pushes back against the banning of books and the intolerance, exclusion, and censorship which undergirds it.

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Call to Action

Defend the Freedom to Read

Defend the Freedom to Read

We defend books and writers, support diverse literature, and safeguard the freedom to imagine, tell stories, express opinions, share knowledge, and to access the opinions, ideas, and stories of others.
Sign the Letter
Reading is Not a Crime

Reading is Not a Crime

In terminating assistant principal Toby Price, Hinds County School District in Mississippi is implying that any educator could be dismissed whenever an anonymous source feels a book read to students is “inappropriate” for any reason.
Add Your Name
Leander, TX Book Banning

Leander, TX Book Banning

PEN America and authors demand a Texas school district reinstate their books.
Join the Fight

News Clips

Washington Post: More books are banned than ever before, as Congress takes on the issue

Washington Post: More books are banned than ever before, as Congress takes on the issue

PEN America, a nonprofit that advocates for freedom of expression, found there have been 1,586 book bans in schools over the past nine months.
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PBS NewsHour: Nationwide effort to ban books challenges freedom of speech

PBS NewsHour: Nationwide effort to ban books challenges freedom of speech

Advocates are sounding the alarm about a set of measures that they say target teaching and writing related to LGBTQ issues, race and freedom of speech. Around the country, efforts to ban specific books or even whole categories of books are on the rise.
Watch the clip
The New York Times: Book Ban Efforts Spread Across the U.S.

The New York Times: Book Ban Efforts Spread Across the U.S.

Challenges to books about sexual and racial identity are nothing new in American schools, but the tactics and politicization are.
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Vox: How the new banned books panic fits into America’s history of school censorship

Vox: How the new banned books panic fits into America’s history of school censorship

It seems as though every few years, a new wave of panic sweeps across America about the books being taught in schools. They are too conservative, or too liberal; they’re being suppressed, or they’re dangerous; they’re pushing an agenda; attention must be paid.
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Salon: Why experts say the banning of "Maus" is not like the censorship of "Huckleberry Finn"

Salon: Why experts say the banning of "Maus" is not like the censorship of "Huckleberry Finn"

The American Library Association and other advocates for the freedom to read have "long considered" curricular and library removals as "efforts to ban books from circulation, to effectively disallow and discourage others to read them."
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CNN: Texas leads among 26 states with book bans, free speech group says

CNN: Texas leads among 26 states with book bans, free speech group says

"Challenges to books, specifically books by non-White male authors, are happening at the highest rates we've ever seen," Friedman said. "What is happening in this country in terms of banning books in schools is unparalleled in its frequency, intensity, and success."
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From PEN America

Report: 1,586 School Book Bans and Restrictions in 86 School Districts Across 26 States

Report: 1,586 School Book Bans and Restrictions in 86 School Districts Across 26 States

Book bans have targeted 1,145 unique book titles by 874 different authors, 198 illustrators, and 9 translators, impacting the literary, scholarly, and creative work of 1,081 people altogether. Texas led the country with the most bans at 713; followed by Pennsylvania (456); Florida (204); Oklahoma (43); Kansas (30); and Tennessee (16).
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These 4 Florida Bills Censor Classroom Subjects and Ideas

These 4 Florida Bills Censor Classroom Subjects and Ideas

These bills have been the subject of much public commentary, including an unfortunate amount of misinformation. To cut through the confusion, PEN America explains below the salient features of each bill and why they have become controversial. Together, these four bills threaten the freedom of Floridians to read, learn, and teach.
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PEN America Calls Restriction of 400 Books in Texas Predictable, Unfortunate

PEN America Calls Restriction of 400 Books in Texas Predictable, Unfortunate

Today, PEN America denounced North East ISD, one of the largest school districts in Texas, for removing more than 400 books for review while responding to a request from state lawmakers
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Dohle Book Defense Fund Established to Combat Rising Threats to Free Speech and Open Discourse

Dohle Book Defense Fund Established to Combat Rising Threats to Free Speech and Open Discourse

The Dohle Book Defense Fund will boost PEN America’s initiatives to educate the public, partner with local community groups to advocate against censorship, track and expose the egregious assaults on books and ideas playing out in classrooms, state legislatures and other arenas. 
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More on Book Bans

Research and Reports

Banned in the USA: Rising School Book Bans Threaten Free Expression and Students’ First Amendment Rights

Banned in the USA: Rising School Book Bans Threaten Free Expression and Students’ First Amendment Rights

PEN America has collated an Index of School Book Bans, offering a snapshot of the trend of decisions to ban books in school libraries and classrooms in the United States from July 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022.
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Missing from the Shelf: Book Challenges and Lack of Diversity in Children's Literature

Missing from the Shelf: Book Challenges and Lack of Diversity in Children's Literature

A persistent pattern of attempts to remove certain books from public schools and libraries, combined with a lack of diversity in Children's and Young Adult (CYA) book publishing, narrows the range of stories and perspectives available to U.S. students.
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Literature Locked Up: How Prison Book Restriction Policies Constitute the Nation’s Largest Book Ban

Literature Locked Up: How Prison Book Restriction Policies Constitute the Nation’s Largest Book Ban

Literature Locked Up: How Prison Book Restriction Policies Constitute the Nation’s Largest Book Ban details book banning in American prisons.
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Protecting the Freedom to Learn: A Banned Books Week Reading List

Protecting the Freedom to Learn: A Banned Books Week Reading List

In this reading list, we’ve chosen to spotlight 10 of the 19 books slated for removal or suspension in the Leander Independent School District in Texas.
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The Children and Young Adult Books Committee

Books written for children and young adults are among the most frequently contested by groups wishing to remove them from libraries and school curricula. PEN America’s Children’s and Young Adult Books Committee, a Members’ coalition of award-winning writers and illustrators and dedicated readers who meet monthly, has produced the series, PEN Pals, which gives voice to the challenged creators of books for children and young adults through a nuanced exchange that illuminates today’s issues.  

From the Archives

An Evening of Forbidden Books, 1982

An Evening of Forbidden Books, 1982

This is a recording by PBS (WNET/THIRTEEN) that documents 18 writers and actors reading selections from banned books over the course of 3 hours. They are protesting book banning in the US that increased 500% in 1981.
Watch the Recording
American Right to Read Colloquium, 1983

American Right to Read Colloquium, 1983

Panelists share their views on what the current state of censorship in schools is. They address whether censorship is changing, getting worse, or staying at the same level in schools.
Listen to the Recording
American Writer's Congress: The Book Wars of Local Censorship, 1981

American Writer's Congress: The Book Wars of Local Censorship, 1981

A panel of educators, authors, and activists on various fronts have a spirited debate over textbooks, what should be taught in schools, and who gets to decide.
Listen to the Recording

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