Celebrate the Freedom to Read During Banned Books Week and Right to Read DAy

” We have to think about ways in which we’re going to be organizing and we’re going to be putting ourselves in positions of power to ensure that books are not banned.” – Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

Banned Books Week (September 22-28) is an annual celebration of our right to read. This year’s theme is “Let Freedom Read.” In recent years, the American Library Association has also observed Right to Read Day, a National Day of Action in support of the right to read.

We are proud to work with authors who are fighting for freedom of expression and open dialogue. Our speakers challenge the notion of restricting or banning these indispensable books that encourage free-thinking, allow for self-expression, and uplift the stories and experiences within their pages.

Isabel Wilkerson

Pulitzer Prize winner and author of the critically acclaimed bestsellers The Warmth of Other Suns and Caste

Isabel Wilkerson’s New York Times-bestselling Caste explores the unspoken hierarchies that divide us across lines of race and class. It has been pulled from libraries in Texas because it generates “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of race.”

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

National Book Award-winning historian and author of How to Be an Antiracist

One of the top 10 most challenged or banned books of 2020 was Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped From the Beginning because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents and does not encompass racism against all people.” The winner of the National Book Awards for Nonfiction, Stamped From the Beginning follows five historical figures and offers readers unwashed versions of who they were and the role that racist ideas played in their lives. Dr. Kendi has spoken out against the banning, saying that “kids today need the types of books that are being banned.”

Download the ALA’s Book Résumé for Stamped from the Beginning

Marjane Satrapi

Academy Award-nominated director, cartoonist, and author of Persepolis

Marjane Satrapi Speaker
Marjane Satrapi’s prominent graphic memoir Persepolis recounts her early years living in the capital of Iran during the turbulent events of the 1970s and 1980s. Persepolis has stirred up controversy for its political viewpoints and has been challenged due to claims of “graphic language and images that are not appropriate for general use.” Satrapi has criticized the ban, reiterating that her book doesn’t teach readers to be violent or to hate.

Download the ALA’s Book Résumé for Persepolis

Garrard Conley

Author of the bestselling memoir Boy Erased

Garrard Conley Speaker
Garrard Conley’s New York Times-bestselling memoir Boy Erased traces the complex relationships among family, faith, and community. In his heart-breaking, at times triumphant story, he speaks about love, compassion, and understanding. Speaking about how his book has been placed on a banned list in Texas, Conley urges people to protect books and argues that banning books is never a good thing.

Download the ALA’s Book Résumé for Boy Erased

Mohsin Hamid

Bestselling Author of Exit West

Mohsin Hamid

The Pakistan-born internationally bestselling author of Moth SmokeThe Reluctant Fundamentalist, and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia takes on ethnic identity, class disparity, and mass-urbanization in his bold, inventive work. Winner of the Betty Trask Award, a Pen/Hemingway finalist, and shortlisted for the Man Booker twice, most recently for Exit West, Mohsin Hamid has quickly emerged as a clarion voice of his generation.

Download the ALA’s Book Résumé for Exit West

Jennifer Egan

Pulitzer Prize-winning Author

Jennifer Egan

Jennifer Egan joined the PEN America Board in 2012 and completed her term as president in 2020. As the president of PEN America, she advocated for the goal of celebrating writing and defending the freedoms that make it possible. In her 2018 Literary Hub piece, she wrote that “few would dispute that the suppression of writers presages deep and ominous problems in a society.”

Jennifer Clement

President of PEN International from 2015 to 2021

Jennifer Clement
As the first woman elected as PEN International’s president since its founding in 1921, Jennifer Clement wanted her organization to commit to the safety and support of women writers around the world. The resulting manifesto has since transcended PEN and been adopted by organizations around the world. Clement addresses freedom of speech, women’s rights, and the creative process behind her lyrically-written, powerful manifesto.