DOYLESTOWN BOROUGH, PA – “Books unite us. Censorship divides us,” they sang as they marched through the heart of the Doylestown borough on Saturday.
To celebrate Banned Books Week, a group of volunteers organized by Advocates for Inclusive Education dressed up as one of the nation’s top ten most banned books of 2021 to show their support for the marketplace of ideas and to protest against censorship.
Every few blocks, the group would pause for a moment as director Kate Nazemi would introduce one of the top 10 books, tell its story and why it was banned, and give it a number where it falls on the banned books list.
“Did you know that Americans of all political persuasions oppose book bans? It’s true. Large majorities – more than eight in ten – do not believe books should be banned from schools,” Nazemi said while announcing the second most banned book in the country.
“Lawn Boy,” she said, “is a wonderful coming-of-age story about a 22-year-old Mexican boy told with wit and humor. This book is full of swear words and probably won’t be for everyone. But freedom is about having choices, not allowing some parents to decide what all students should read.
“Lawn boy,” she said. “They have been banned for LGTBQ+ content and are considered sexually explicit.”
Shana Trichon, who represented the book in the parade, stepped forward to receive the book’s number two on the banned book list.
“I love the Banned Book Parade,” said Trichon, the parent of a third and ninth grader in the Central Bucks School District. “This is great. These people are incredible. And it’s important that we raise awareness of a very important issue, that we shouldn’t ban books. We should allow children to explore and read what they need.
“It’s important to keep books in our schools and books on our shelves, whatever they may be,” she added. “We need books to understand what we’re going through and to connect. And nobody should ban any books.”
Nazemi said getting the information out to people in Central Bucks is particularly difficult because the local school district is pushing the narrative that they don’t ban books.
“The fact is, when you restrict access to books through a selection process that’s incredibly difficult to interpret and understand, that’s censorship,” she said.
“It’s also difficult in an affluent community like Doylestown, where people say my kids can just go to the bookstore or order it on Amazon. But that is not the point. The point is that you should not censor ideas and information. In our society there is a free flow of ideas and information. If you start shaking it, our democracy will suffer.”
Nazemi said she was pleased with Saturday’s banned books parade and hoped it would be one of many to come.
“If we informed one person today, I would be happy,” she said.
The banned books of 2021
- Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
- Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evision
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Native American by Sherman Alexie
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
- Toni Morrison’s bluest eye
- This book is gay by Juno Dawson
- Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin
The parade was part of a local celebration of Banned Books Week organized by Advocates for Inclusive Education and Red Wine and Blue.
Other events included a youth program at the Rainbow Room in Doylestown featuring trans student activist Lily Freeman of Project Uncensored from Central Bucks School District, story time featuring LGBTQ+ children’s books, door prizes, cookies and hot cocoa.
Additionally, Red Wine and Blue hosted a Celebrate Little Free Libraries themed event at the Garden Bar in Puck, Doylestown. The event included local speakers and the donation of banned books to the district’s Little Free Libraries.
Banned Books Week also coincided with this year’s Bucks County Book Festival, which included book readings, a writers’ workshop and a Books and Brews event.