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Springfield bookstore owner says customers seek banned books

"All Boys Aren't Blue" by George M. Johnson is on the top 10 list of banned books in 2021  from the American Library Association.
Elizabeth Román
/
NEPM
"All Boys Aren't Blue" by George M. Johnson is on the top 10 list of banned books in 2021 from the American Library Association.

The American Library Association has released its top 10 most banned or challenged books list for 2021.

Books grappling with homophobia, racism, police brutality, and activism are on last year's banned and challenged books list. Among the titles are "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison, "All Boys Aren't Blue" by George M. Johnson and "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas.

Zee Johnson is the founder of Olive Tree Books-N-Voices in Springfield. Johnson said she is going to continue to carry these titles in her store.

"As a bookstore owner and as a person of color, it certainly sends the message that I don't have a freedom of choice and that I don't get to choose what I want to read," she said. "It creates a perception of limitation."

Johnson said her patrons deliberately seek these books out to see themselves represented.

" It definitely dispels a lot of stereotypes when you are able to really expose yourself to different nationalities, races, different diverse groups. I welcome that," she said.

Johnson said her store will always carry books that may be perceived as controversial.

"What our bookstore does is provide an environment and an opportunity for all types of books to be read, to be accessed. And we certainly have not banned the banned books," she said. "As a matter of fact, we had them before they were banned, and we're going to continue to carry them."

She hopes more people continue to be comfortable with reading material that makes them a little uncomfortable, adding that it's just a part of learning.

Nirvani Williams covers socioeconomic disparities for New England Public Media, joining the news team in June 2021 through Report for America.
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