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

Months after the Leander Independent School District in Texas made headlines for banning a slate of books and graphic novels from its secondary school curriculum, the Austin-area district released its decisions on an additional set of titles in August, announcing that 13 books are to be removed from schools, with an additional six titles suspended until further notice. Across the United States, similar book bans and censorious threats have taken hold in schools, academia, and the public square, with books that center the history of racism in the U.S. and/or LGBTQ+ stories being targeted most frequently. This has raised questions: Who is allowed to be heard? Who decides?

This year, as we celebrate Banned Books Week, PEN America uplifts the books, authors, teachers, and writers who insist on telling stories and examining history with honesty and complexity. In this reading list, we’ve chosen to spotlight 10 of the 19 books slated for removal or suspension in Leander, TX. Many of these books have been authored by women and people of color and discuss themes of racial discrimination, immigration, LGBTQ+ relationships, mental health, and sexual assault and violence. We hope you’ll take the time to check out these groundbreaking books. See how PEN America is championing the freedom to learn for Banned Books Week and how you can help us fight back.