NYC Banned Books Challenge: Fight Book Banning By Reading Banned Books

By NYPL Staff
May 23, 2022

The New York Public Library is building on its efforts to combat recent trends in nationwide book bans and challenges by teaming up with Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Public Library to present a new initiative: the NYC Banned Books Challenge. We’re challenging New Yorkers to read a selection of 10 books that represent voices, identities, and perspectives that book banning threatens to erase.

The American Library Association (ALA) recently announced that it tracked an “unprecedented” number of challenges to library, school, and university materials in 2021: 729 challenges to 1,597 individual books. This is more than double the challenges tracked in 2019, and the books being challenged often focus on race, LGBTQ+ issues, religion, and history. As providers of free and open access to all information and all perspectives, public libraries have a clear role to play in fighting such censorship.

Getting Started

To get the city started, we’re making one of the recommended books—popular YA title and 2021 National Book Award winner Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo—available to cardholders with no waits via our free e-reader app, SimplyE, on iOS and Android through June 26.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club—a Penguin Random House title that explores issues of race and sexuality—has been the subject of such book banning efforts, including in Texas earlier this year. The story focuses on Lily Hu, a teenager living in 1950s Chinatown, who falls in love with another woman in an environment not friendly to LGBTQ relationships. Her romance, along with red-scare paranoia, create a high-stakes situation that could cost Lily’s father his citizenship.

Are You Up for the Challenge?

Check out the 10 books recommended by our librarians below: read them, talk about them, share with your community. There are of course many more books that have faced bans or challenges, but we hope these help get you started.

The Library’s role is to make sure no perspective, no idea, no identity is erased. We remain dedicated to connecting New Yorkers with books that are not only enjoyable, but can help readers develop deeper understanding and greater empathy—the very tools needed to fight ignorance and hate.

Learn more about NYC Banned Books Challenge.

Summaries provided via NYPL’s catalog, which draws from multiple sources. Click through to each book’s title for more.