Welcome to Maisie's Banned Book Club
For ages 10 to 18
What is the Banned Book Club?
This Banned Book Club is a teen-led program focused on reading and learning from books that are banned in school districts across the United States. Spearheaded by our delightful book junkie, Maisie, a junior in Westchester County, New York, The Bittermelon is excited to welcome fellow youth across the country on a journey exploring tough realities and thoughts that we might have never considered!
Check out the upcoming book selection below or by clicking here.
Why Banned Books?
Books are often banned because they contain subject material that is deemed to be inappropriate, even though many teenagers today go through similar issues. These books can be very controversial, but they are harsh truths that teens need to know. Furthermore, book banning disproportionately affects authors who are minorities, making it harder for teens of ethnic minorities to access books that can teach them the knowledge to deal with touching issues.
When will the Club meet?
Maisie's Banned Book Club starts a new book on the first Sunday of every month! We meet on select Sundays, as posted on our calendar and EventBrite, via Zoom from 4:30PM to 5:30 PM. A Zoom link will be sent by email the day before each kickoff.
Current November Book
Out of Darkness
by Ashley Hope Pérez
"Out of Darkness is a historical novel that explores themes of racism, discrimination, and resilience. Through this story, Pérez depicts the harsh realities of a segregated society and the prejudice that is still prevalent today. Out of Darkness demonstrates the struggles faced by marginalized communities and will force readers to reflect on their own biases. Through reading this book, the book club can work on dismantling discrimination." - Maisie
Published in 2015, at the start of the Black Lives Matter movement, Out of Darkness was launched into controversy for its re-contextualization of contemporary issues of race in America. Out of Darkness follows a love story between an African-American boy and a Mexican-American girl who must navigate tensions, traumas, and color lines. The book has been banned in schools across Texas for its offensive description of nudity, sexual conduct, and sadomasochistic abuse.
Monday's Not Coming
by Tiffany D. Jackson
by Ray Bradbury
"Fahrenheit 451 explores a dystopian society where books are burned to maintain social conformity and control. The novel challenges the idea of intellectual freedom and will spark meaningful discussions about censorship. Through reading this book, book club members will develop a more meaningful understanding of book bans and further inspire them to partake in the book club for the following months." - Maisie
First published in 1953, Fahrenheit 451 was inspired by the Nazi book burnings in the 1930s, which targeted books with ideologies opposed to Nazism, as well as books written by Jewish, communist, liberal, pacifist, and other authors. Given the role of book burning in Fahrenheit 451, it is ironic that the novel has been frequently censored and banned, primarily for its vulgarity and discussion of sex, drugs, suicide, murder, and abortion. Nevertheless, Fahrenheit 451 has been praised as Bradbury's greatest work for its stance against censorship and its defense of literature as a primary source of knowledge for humanity.
by Mike Curato
"I chose the book Flamer by Mike Curato as it demonstrates the experience of a young teen discovering his sexuality. Flamer highlights themes of discrimination from peers along with racism and self image issues. The matters contained in this book are particularly important during pride month as we commemorate the LGBTQ+ fight for equality and acknowledge their experiences." - Maisie
Published in 2020, Flamer is a young adult graphic novel that tells the story of Aiden, a teenage Filipino-American who must deal with toxic masculinity and homophobia as he struggles with his sexuality. Aiden's story is based off of Curato's own experiences as a teenager, illustrating the pain and vulnerability he felt as he struggled to discover his identity. Despite being banned and even singled out by schools in states such as Texas and Florida, Flamer provides a deeply meaningful source of validation for LGBTQ+ teenagers who may be struggling to find connection and an emotional source of representation.
Crying in H-Mart
by Michelle Zauner
"I chose Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner because it tells the story of losing a parent while struggling with the biracial Asian Identity. It mentions themes of grief, family, identity, and culture. It describes the biracial identity and experience, being a half-Korean American I found the feelings and experiences relatable and I heavily Identified with the emotions felt by Michelle. I feel that this story does a great job of depicting the Asian American experience and biracial identity, whilst going through the process of losing a parent." - Maisie
Written as a memoir of Michelle Zauner's experiences and an expansion of her New Yorker essay with the same title, Crying in H-Mart is an emotionally gripping book that tells her story of loss, identity, and depression. For Zauner, H Mart and Korean groceries are more than just food, they're reminders of her Korean identity: "When I go to H Mart, I’m not just on the hunt for cuttlefish and three bunches of scallions for a buck: I’m searching for memories. I’m collecting the evidence that the Korean half of my identity didn’t die when they did." Zauner's critically acclaimed memoir beautifully encapsulates the Asian American experience through the lens of tragic loss and searching for one's identity.
Monday's Not Coming
by Tiffany D. Jackson
"I chose the book Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson as it deals with important and timely topics such as mental health, abuse and systemic racism in the education system. The novel follows a teenage girl, Claudia who is searching for her missing friend Monday. Through Claudia’s experience we see the ways in which marginalized groups are often overlooked and ignored by those in power. While the book was banned for sexual content and other mature themes, the book is a necessary read to better understand struggles faced by marginalized communities today." - Maisie
Tiffany D. Jackson's 2018 novel Monday's Not Coming centers around the disappearance of Black teenager Monday Charles and her best friend's journey to find her. It has been challenged and banned by schools across the United States over accusations of containing sexual content and teaching critical race theory (CRT). Jackson has since denied these accusations, especially those regarding CRT, and says that she has no intention of shying away from topics such as racism in the future. Students and parents alike have found Monday's Not Coming to be a difficult yet powerful story that provides an outlet for those who have suffered through similar distress in their lives.
All Boys Aren't Blue
by George M. Johnson
"I chose the book All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson as it represents the real experiences of a black queer man. The struggles of being black and queer individually are two extremely tough and underrepresented groups of people, however it is the intersectionality of the two that makes this book even more important. This book tells the real, modern stories and experiences of George M. Johnson." - Maisie
Since its publication in 2020, All Boys Aren't Blue has been banned and challenged in countless school districts across the United States for its LGBTQ content, profanity, and because of the fact that it has been considered to be sexually explicit. Johnson, who is nonbinary, has faced large amounts of backlash even as the book soars in popularity. Despite this, All Boys Aren't Blue continues to be a book that gives students agency, helping them to find who they are and to feel safe and validated.
The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison
"I chose this book for its representation of the effect of internalized racism, this being portrayed through an eleven year old black girl during the great depression. The book talks about the unattainable white beauty standards and the societal standards for black peoples. The book also deals with graphic subjects such as molestation and rape, which are sensitive, but important topics." - Maisie
Toni Morrison has established herself as a writer who does not shy away from uncomfortable and hard-to-tell stories. The Bluest Eye, her first novel, is certainly no exception. Since its publication in 1970, The Bluest Eye has consistently been in ALA's most challenged books for its depiction of racism, incest, and child sexual abuse. While parents and school boards have banned The Bluest Eye from classrooms around the U.S., many teachers and students continue to value the book for its African American representation and for its boldness in dealing with issues such as incest and violence.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
"I chose this book because indigenous people, who lived on this land for thousands of years, are now a marginalized group in the US, and this book tells the story of an indigenous teenager needing to assimilate to American culture. I think it is important to understand the perspectives of indigenous people in the land we now call America." - Maisie
Since its publication in 2007, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has been the source of much controversy, becoming ALA's most challenged book from 2000 to 2009. This book has been banned in schools across America for its depiction of sexuality, violence, profanity and slurs relating to homosexuality and mental disability. In 2018, rumors began surfacing regarding Sherman Alexie's sexual misconduct towards women authors, adding to the controversy of his career and his works.