In their last yearly report, the American Library Association reported that 273 books had been targets of censorship in libraries and schools, and surveys indicate that the reported number vastly underrepresents the total. Eliminating a novel or memoir or book of poetry—especially one that focuses on a marginalized community—from a library or classroom can also erase the history of that group. Books often help teach us empathy, and for those exploring identity or experiences outside of their own, book bans limit opportunities to connect and understand, for readers to see themselves reflected on the page.
In celebration of Women’s History Month, we selected six of our often-banned favorites:
Beloved by Toni Morrison is my favorite book of all time.
Order Beloved here.
My favorite banned book by a woman is Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. I love the many literary allusions in this graphic memoir, which put Bechdel’s own family and experiences in conversation with other stories and characters. The visuals are also incredibly beautiful.
Order Fun Home here.
Carmen Maria Machado’s memoir, In the Dream House, explores relational abuse within queer relationships, and is a stunning narrative written in a clever, innovative form. The author not only relates the story of her own struggle to survive but also interrogates why the history of queer domestic abuse has remained a silent, unspoken one.
—Felicia Rosemary Urso
Order In The Dream House here.
My eighth grade English teacher and I started a mini book club (just the two of us) to read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. She recommended the book because she knew I was going through a rough time. It changed my life, for the better, and I wouldn’t be who I am without having read this book.
Order Why the Caged Bird Sings here.
Persepolis is an incredible graphic memoir centered on a young girl’s upbringing in late 1970s–early 1980s Iran. Covering one of the most turbulent periods in Iranian history, the book reflects on author Marjane Satrapi’s family, oppression, religion, and gender roles. Persepolis has begun many conversations about Iranian culture, helping to break vicious stereotypes.
—Sarah Mina Osman
Order Persepolis here.
The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeanette Walls, tells the tender and piercing story of a childhood within a household that is both uniquely dysfunctional and full of love. Walls walks a delicate line, narrating her survival and escape from an environment of alcoholism and abuse while also showing deep generosity and affection for her family.
Order The Glass Castle here.
Thank you to Lookout staffer Sarah Mina Osman for her contributions to this roundup.