Banned Books Club kicks off with author David Levithan leading the discussion of his often-banned novel Two Boys Kissing

The Authors Guild, the nation’s oldest and largest nonprofit advocacy organization for professional writers and journalists, today launched its year-long, virtual monthly Banned Books Club through an agreement with the book club app Fable.

Since its founding in 1912, the Authors Guild has opposed censorship in any form, including book banning, which undermines democracy, suppresses free speech and expression, hinders creativity and innovation, and makes it harder for authors to earn a living.

“We created the Authors Guild Banned Books Club in response to the alarming number of states and school boards which have recently banned a wide number of books and other resources from school curriculums or libraries,” said Mary Rasenberger, CEO of the Authors Guild. “Our goal is to give both students and adults the opportunity to read and learn more about the books being banned in their districts and elsewhere and provide the rare opportunity to engage on the platform with the authors of those works. We hope this will spark discussions across the country about the value of a diverse body of literature and the harm book banning causes by ‘erasing’ the unique experiences and perspectives of marginalized voices.”

Each month, the Authors Guild Banned Books Club will present a different work of fiction or nonfiction recently banned at schools in the United States. Interested readers can log on to Fable anytime during that month to access the moderated book discussion, including valuable resources to help get the most out of their reading experience. Each book’s author will “lead” the discussion─or if the author is deceased, a well-known writer who has a special affinity with the work─to help readers understand the story and find their own meaning in it.

The Authors Guild Banned Books Club is made possible by a generous grant from Hachette.

David Levithan leads first discussion

The first book featured in the Banned Books Club is David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing, a YA novel about Harry and Craig, two 17-year-olds who decide to participate in a 32-hour kissing marathon to set a new Guinness World Record. The novel ranks #18 on the American Library Association’s Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books of the past decade. Levithan is the author of more than 20 books, including Boy Meets Boy, The Realm of Possibility, Every Day, and, with Rachel Cohn, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. He received the 2016 Margaret A. Edwards Award for his significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature. Levithan also serves as the founding editor of PUSH, a young-adult imprint of Scholastic focusing on new voices and new authors.

“The growing epidemic of book banning and legislation that undermines the freedom to read across the United States is something we all must stand up against, both on behalf of the freedom to read itself and for all the young readers who need to see their stories being told,” said Levithan. “I am pleased to participate in the Authors Guild Banned Books Club, which will be a great forum to discuss not only why these books are being challenged, but how to support the kids who are disenfranchised by such challenges.”

A critical moment

Since January 2021, citing objections to the often misunderstood “critical race theory,” 15 states have enacted laws restricting the teaching of certain concepts or books relating to race, racism, social injustice, sexual orientation, and identity. Another 27 states have proposed similar bills. Even in states that have no plans to enact such legislation, activist groups such as No Left Turn, Moms for Liberty and Parents Defending Education, as well as the conservative think tank the Goldwater Group, are arming parents and other community members with templates targeting school boards. This involves training them on how to disrupt school board meetings and providing long lists of books they demand be removed from school curriculums or libraries. A recent analysis of the 1,148 books currently banned in one or more schools across the United States found that 74 percent feature people of color or those who identify as LGBTQ+ and 22 percent specifically address race and racism.

“Like the Authors Guild, we have been deeply concerned by the recent surge in book banning,” said Padmasree Warrior, founder and CEO of Fable. “Reading is healthy not just on an individual level—it’s healthy on a societal level. The Authors Guild’s Banned Books Club is the perfect use case for Fable’s unique social reading experience, and we’re thrilled to partner with them on this important mission.”

In addition to the Banned Books Club, the Authors Guild recently developed a Stop Book Bans Toolkit. It provides Guild members and others interested in combating book banning with templates and details on how to contact their local school board and state lawmakers or submit a letter to the editor of their local newspaper or radio station.

Please visit authorsguild.org/bannedbooksclub for more information, including a list of upcoming books and authors featured in the series.