MSNBC’s Ali Velshi brings you the “Velshi Banned Book Club,” an act of resistance against the epidemic of book banning. In each episode, a different author of a...
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Reexamining and Reframing U.S. History with Nikole Hannah-Jones
“The 1619 Project”, named for the year the first enslaved African people arrived on the shores of Virginia, began as an editorial franchise for the New York Times. Since its inception, “The 1619 Project” has faced sharp criticism and relentless calls for its ban -- from school libraries, state Senates, and even from the White House. “The 1619 Project” encapsulates exactly why the books featured on Velshi Banned Book Club are targeted each and every day -- then adds footnotes and an extensive list of distinguished peer reviewers. It represents change that is not just coming – change that is already here.
Using Literature to Grapple with School Shootings
School shootings can feel inescapable -- especially if you're an American. Authors Jodi Picoult and Todd Strasser grapple with school shootings through literature. Picoult’s “Nineteen Minutes” is told from a place of healing. The reader is not asked to feel compassion for the shooter, but the story lays bare the bullying, taunts, and complicated family dynamics that help to explain the “why”. “Give a Boy a Gun” by Todd Strasser was initially published in 2000 – just one year after the Columbine High School massacre. It was one of the first works of fiction to look at the new reality that followed after Columbine: a world where students can die in their classrooms. It is also one of the few books on this topic written specifically for a young adult audience.
The Prodigious Margaret Atwood
Most everyone knows Margaret Atwood’s name for her seminal work “The Handmaid’s Tale”. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is more relevant with each passing day – exploring women’s bodily autonomy, the environment, autocratic regimes, and even the banning of books. Atwood also wrote a stirring modern adaption of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, entitled “Hagseed”. Atwood’s take on the classic grapples with crucial themes including the illusion of justice, the sanctity of family, reality, and even colonization.
Coming of Age as a Black Teen in America
The stakes are high when you’re a Black teenager in America – they can be life or death. Both books featured on this episode of Velshi Banned Book Club couple pulled-from-the-headlines urgency with the emotional depth of good fiction. “All American Boys”, co-authored by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, explores a gutting episode of police brutality from the perspectives of two teenage boys: one Black and one white. Author Nic Stone’s stunning debut novel “Dear Martin”, explores the emotional impact of police brutality through poignant diary entries to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
LGBTQ+ Coming of Age Stories
Books that tell LGBTQ+ stories are banned at a disproportionately high rate. The first episode of Velshi Banned Book Club features two equally powerful and poignant novels that grapple with what it means to discover who you are and who you love. “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan masterfully weaves four separate narratives and a haunting Greek chorus of AIDS victims to tell a story of freedom, equality, intergenerational mobility, and community through a tender, coming-of-age lens. “Boy Erased” centers around author Garrard Conley’s two-week treatment at a so-called conversion therapy center and explores the crucial role of family, understanding of religion, and, of course, identity. This episode features audio from various school board meetings across the nation including: Spotsylvania County Public Schools on November 8, 2021; Dearborn Public School District on October 10, 2022; Lake Travis Independent School District on September 17, 2021; and Hillsborough County Public Schools on February 10, 2022.
MSNBC’s Ali Velshi brings you the “Velshi Banned Book Club,” an act of resistance against the epidemic of book banning. In each episode, a different author of a banned book joins Ali—including Margaret Atwood, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Laurie Halse Anderson, and more—to talk about why their work is being targeted and about the literature itself. “Velshi Banned Book Club” is a series rooted in literary and cultural analysis and in the notion of reading as resistance. Read along with Ali and follow now to listen to the first two episodes on August 24th.
Velshi Banned Book Club reading list:
“Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan
“Boy Erased” by Garrard Conley
“All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
“Dear Martin” by Nic Stone
“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
"The Tempest" by William Shakespeare
“Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult
“Give a Boy a Gun” by Todd Strasser
“The 1619 Project” by Nikole Hannah-Jones
“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Saenz
“Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez
“Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson
“Ready or Not” by Meg Cabot
“Beloved” by Toni Morrison with Dr. Imani Perry and Dr. Eddie Glaude Jr.
“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston with Dr. Imani Perry and Ibram X. Kendi