By Monika Trzeciakowski
While book banning is not a common practice in Canada, where I was born, books are constantly being challenged for various reasons – offensive language, sensitive or graphic content, mature content. These are attempts to censor certain voices and experiences that people disagree with. Often these challenges come from adults who believe that the content of certain books are inappropriate for younger audiences. While many books receive challenges, they don’t necessarily become banned books until they’re removed from a collection. Thankfully, if libraries have strong collection development policies, they are able to justify the importance of intellectual freedom and ensure challenged books remain in their collection for people to access. Freedom to Read Canada provides great details about the various books challenged in Canada each year. In recognition of this, and of September 27 – October 3 as Banned Books Week 2020, check out the titles that we’re reading!
Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story, by David A. Robertson
Helen Betty Osborne, known as Betty to her closest friends and family, dreamed of becoming a teacher. She left her home to attend residential school and high school in a small town in Manitoba. On November 13, 1971, Betty was abducted and brutally murdered by four young men. Initially met with silence and indifference, her tragic murder resonates loudly today. Betty represents one of almost 1,200 Indigenous women in Canada who have been murdered or gone missing.
Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story was challenged in Canadian libraries for sensitive content.
Pride, by Robin Stevenson
For gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and their supporters, June is a month of pride and celebration, and the high point of that month is the Pride Day Parade. Pride Day is a spectacular and colorful event. But there is a whole lot more to Pride than rainbow flags and amazing outfits. So what exactly are we celebrating on Pride Day? How did this event come to be? And what does Pride mean to the people who celebrate it?
Pride was challenged in Canadian libraries for inappropriate content.
This One Summer, by Mariko & Jillian Tamaki
Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. One of the local teens – just a couple of years older than Rose and Windy – is caught up in something bad… Something life threatening.
It’s a summer of secrets, and sorrow, and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.
This One Summer was challenged in Canadian libraries for offensive language and mature content.
The Book of Negroes, by Lawrence Hill -- available on Audible Canada
Abducted as an 11-year-old child from her village in West Africa and forced to walk for months to the sea in a coffle—a string of slaves— Aminata Diallo is sent to live as a slave in South Carolina. But years later, she forges her way to freedom, serving the British in the Revolutionary War and registering her name in the historic “Book of Negroes.” This book, an actual document, provides a short but immensely revealing record of freed Loyalist slaves who requested permission to leave the US for resettlement in Nova Scotia, only to find that the haven they sought was steeped in an oppression all of its own.
Aminata’s eventual return to Sierra Leone—passing ships carrying thousands of slaves bound for America—is an engrossing account of an obscure but important chapter in history that saw 1,200 former slaves embark on a harrowing back-to-Africa odyssey. Lawrence Hill is a master at transforming the neglected corners of history into brilliant imaginings, as engaging and revealing as only the best historical fiction can be. A sweeping story that transports the reader from a tribal African village to a plantation in the southern United States, from the teeming Halifax docks to the manor houses of London, The Book of Negroes introduces one of the strongest female characters in recent Canadian fiction, one who cuts a swath through a world hostile to her colour and her sex.
The Book of Negroes was challenged in Canadian libraries for offensive language.
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