Spotlight on Diversity

On Sunday, the 25th, Banned Books Week was kicked off around the country. Here at The Bookshelf, as most of our patrons know, we are closed on Sundays, and began our celebration yesterday (Maybe you popped in, or saw our Instagram post.)! For those readers who may not know, the Banned Books Week Coalition launched in 1982 and works nationally to raise awareness for challenged books and celebrate the freedom to read. Certain books have been banned in schools, libraries, and bookstores for decades based on the level of inappropriateness; referencing profanity, porn, and even individual sexuality. Some books that have been previously banned are actually considered today to be classics that have held a significant influence on American literary culture: The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby, Gone With the Wind, The Catcher in the Rye, Their Eyes Were Watching God, etc.

This year's overall theme is diversity, hence the title above, and is being showcased through previously banned or challenged books that highlight diversity through their characters and plots, or through the authors that penned them. We've got some specific titles that emphasize the theme of diversity here at The Bookshelf (pictured above), which might even be evident in their titles. The diversity these novels showcase is sure to please book lovers - because who wants to read the same book with the same characters written by the same author over and over again? Not us! Below, I've had the staff here at the store give their all time favorite banned books.

Annie - The Catcher in the Rye - "I read Catcher when I was a senior in high school, and even though I believe the book holds up well past adolescence, I can't imagine a better time in your life to read it than during those on-the-cusp-of-adulthood years. It's a shame it's been banned from so many high school reading lists; Holden's angst and anger are palpable, and even though I never was a super rebellious teenager, I found a little bit of myself in Holden, as I believe a lot of us probably do."
Sterling - The Perks of Being a Wallflower - "While this coming-of-age story didn’t seem that scandalous to my twenty year-old self, the ban makes a little more sense when you consider the targeted audience: adolescents. But the reasons for its ban are the same behind its greatness: angsty teenagers exploring their identities and breaking social mores are as universal as storytelling itself. The emotional rawness of narrator Charlie and his equally complicated friends brings solace to teens and adults alike who don’t fit the mold. Which is everyone. But beware, Chbosky’s treatment of mental illness and social isolation doesn’t necessarily make for easy reading."
Chris - Brave New World -  "It's the quintessential cautionary tale about our love of mindless entertainment and obsession with technological progress. The fact that it has been banned for its frank depictions of sexuality is all the more reason to check it out and see how prescient Huxley's vision was all the way back in 1931."
Rebekah - The Great Gatsby -  "It was challenged as recently as 1987 for 'crude language and sexual references.'  It's hard to believe so many books that are considered classics still come under fire for their content."

Personally, I choose one of our featured diversity novels - Beloved - for its scathing take on female sexuality, racism, and the unique narrative style that led to it winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1988 - only a year after it was published! (Although I may be a little biased, I did just finish reading this novel for a class.) 

So, check out some of these titles and see what all the (banned) fuss is about! Check out what other cool activities bookstores and libraries around the country are doing to spotlight diversity during Banned Books Week, like this library in Washington, D.C. ( You can also learn more about Banned Books Week and its history at Click on our Instagram or Facebook for fun facts about Banned Books Week. Don't forget to stop by The Bookshelf to check out the activities and books that we are showcasing this week as well, and ask for additional information on our first ever Pen to Plate dinner being held next week.

Wishing you well,