Monday is the start of Banned Books Week, a nationwide event that champions literary representation and highlights the effects of book censorship. And you can celebrate locally, too: The DC Public Library is joining forces with the DC Public Library Foundation to host a series of events to commemorate the event throughout the month of October.
Starting Monday, Washingtonians can take part in a month-long, banned-book treasure hunt throughout the city. Hundreds of copies of six widely challenged books will be hidden in area coffee shops, museums, libraries, bookstores, and bars. Clues about the books’ locations will be posted daily on DC Public Library’s socials, @dcpubliclibrary on Instagram, @dcpl on Twitter/X, and @dclibrary on Facebook. Posts with hints will be tagged #UncensoredDC.
Each hidden book will have a special cover featuring local designer Dian Holton’s depiction of a snake creeping through tall grass—a metaphor for the stealthy threat of censorship. Collect all six, listed below, to reveal a composite design across the book spines:
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
- How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith
- With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
- The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
- A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger
When you need a break from book-scouting, you can head to neighborhood libraries for discussions and author talks throughout Banned Books Week. The week will be capped off October 6 during the Battle of the Banned, where branch libraries from all eight wards will present art based on banned books. Residents will be able to vote on their favorite artwork while enjoying food and music at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library.
The celebration comes as book bans remain a pressing topic within the area: Virginia saw 75 book bans in public schools between July 2022 and June 2023; meanwhile, Maryland’s Carroll County is currently seeing a clash concerning banned books, and, earlier this year, Montgomery County Public Schools parents sued the district over curriculum containing LGBTQ+ inclusive reading.
DC Public Library Foundation executive director Rob Hartman says DC residents should feel empowered to oppose the rising trends of book bans across the country. “If we don’t stand up against this, I don’t know who will,” he says. “So we need to be a loud voice in making sure that intellectual freedom is celebrated.”