Book Beat: Banned Books Week 2018 and the Man Booker Shortlist

Hello lovely readers, and welcome to Book Beat! It’s your Bookmarked editor Paige, back to report on all the latest news in the book world and publishing industry. And what a wonderful time to indulge in all this news, considering fall is now officially upon us! The air is cooler, the nights are shorter, and it feels like all anyone wants to do these days is curl up with some blankets, a warm drink, and some light entertainment. Not that I’m judging, of course — considering I’m doing the exact same thing now. So let’s all sit back, relax, and let Book Beat be the light entertainment you need this week!

Welcome to Banned Books Week 2018!

The last week of September holds numerous special meanings in the United States. For many, it is the first full week of fall. For others, it’s the last week before Halloween — since that holiday lasts the entire month of October, of course. And if you’re a passionate member of the book world, you know that September 23rd to 29th is when we celebrate Banned Books Week this year.

Banned Books Week 2018 banner

Banned Books Week is an annual event that celebrates “the freedom to read” by highlighting recent attempts to censor books and libraries in schools. It was first created in 1982 as a collaborative effort between First Amendment/library activist Judith Krug and the American Library Association (ALA). Now in its 36th year, this year’s theme is “Banning Books Silences Stories,” which serves as a reminder against the censorship of literature. And given the tumultuous environment the nation has found itself grappling with since the 2016 presidential election, this theme is an adequate representation of the current unjust censorship campaigns within our society.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 354 challenges to library, school, and university literary materials last year, the culmination of these instances leading to the attempted and/or successful banning of 416 books. Out of this extensive list, the Office for Intellectual Freedom found 10 important books to be the most challenged books of 2017, such as The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas; Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher; I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings, and Shelagh McNicholas; The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie; and Drama by Raina Telgemeier.

Despite the vast differences in subject, tone, and display between these books and graphic novels, the justifications used to ban them consistently reveal the challengers’ discomfort when confronted with marginalized experiences around race, gender, sexuality, class, religion, and mental health. While these continued censorship attempts are worrisome, it is also indicative of the rich diversity growing within the publishing world and reaching an eager audience of readers — one that we must continuously dedicated ourselves to protecting.

Man Booker Shortlist Announced — With Interesting Implications

After reporting on the 2018 Man Booker Prize nominee list for several weeks now, the shortlist of finalists has finally been announced. These semi-finalist titles are as follows:

  • Milkman by Anna Burns
  • Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
  • Everything Under by Daisy Johnson
  • The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
  • The Overstory by Richard Powers
  • The Long Take by Robin Robertson

Several aspects of the shortlist have been cause for praise and scrutiny in equal measures over the last few days. The six-book shortlist includes four female authors, one of whom is a black woman. Two of the novels are debuts, one of which comes from a 27-year-old author who is the youngest person to ever be considered for the Man Booker in its nearly 50-year history. And the typically British-dominated award is clearly expanding in its geographical scope, as this year’s shortlist features two British authors, one Irish author, two Americans and one Canadian.

While these quick statistics have been wonderful surprises, some critics have used this information to point out the prestigious literary award’s longstanding failings. For example, critics are wondering why young authors, female authors, authors of color, and international English speaking authors are only now breaking onto the list in extremely underrepresented numbers, tying this issue of representation with the slow nature of progress in the British publishing industry. Other critics are similarly calling out the Man Booker’s unrealistic representation of the year’s best novel based on what the public is actually buying and reading. These and other critiques offer a much-appreciated discussion about representation and industry power in the English literary canon, and I look forward to the substantial changes that will ideally come from these discussions.

Diverse Fiction Magazines vs. Goodreads

Out of all the communal online spaces that book readers and writers use, Goodreads is among the most popular and well-known. Usually, I’d say Goodreads is a benevolent force and an invaluable resource in the book world, as the website lists a variety of literary works that users can easily share and discuss with the world-at-large. However, Goodreads’ database can also be seen as limited in its scope and definition of literary works, which greatly influences what readers are exposed to and how non-novel literature promotes itself to readers.

Unfortunately, this concerning latter issue has emerged in the last several days. Several authors and readers discovered that Goodreads had removed all issues of FIYAH Magazine and Anathema Magazine, two publications that focus exclusively on publishing the work of authors of color, respectively. The windfall from these initial deletions has included several threads of heated debate on the Goodreads’ forum; the uneasy revelation of the site’s less than informed policies, staff, and volunteers; and the deletion of another online literary magazine as a casualty of this increasingly confusing situation. Check out our extensive overview of the situation to learn more.

Out This Week

A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos, translated by Hildegarde Serle

For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White

Time’s Convert by Deborah Harkness

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

Multiple covers of Vengeful by V.E.Schwab

Happy Thursday!

Paige Allen

Paige Allen

Adult-in-training by day, queer geek of color by night.

One thought on “Book Beat: Banned Books Week 2018 and the Man Booker Shortlist

  1. The issue of international representation in the Booker Prize is a bit more complicated than that. Since 2014 it has been open to US authors, when previously it was only open to UK, Irish, and Commonwealth authors. There’s a serious argument to the effect that opening it to US authors has reduced representation from Commonwealth countries other than the UK and Ireland.

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