JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – In recent years, book bans have affected public libraries, school systems and writers nationwide, including in Mississippi.
According to the American Library Association, more than 2,500 unique books were targeted for censorship nationwide in 2022. So far in 2023, that number is more than 1,900. The most targeted books nationally deal with race, reference the LGBTQ community or have some level of sexually-related content.
Many of these titles were highlighted nationally in this year’s Banned Books Week, which started on October 1. These bans also impact Mississippi writers, both young and old, as evidenced in the first Annual Mississippi Banned Book Festival, which occurred in March. Below is the list of Mississippi authors who have had their books banned in various parts of the country.
Book banned: “Dead Until Dark”
The New York Times bestselling author was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta. The HBO television series “True Blood” was based on Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels. The first book, in the series, “Dead Until Dark,” focuses on the adventures of an unlikely couple: Sookie Stackhouse and Bill Compton. Stackhouse is a cocktail waitress in Bon Temps, Louisiana with the ability to read people’s minds and Compton is a vampire immune to Stackhouse’s ability.
Book banned: “Heavy: An American Memoir”
Laymon is the Libbie Shearn Moody Professor of English and Creative Writing at Rice University in Houston. “Heavy: An American Memoir,” was named one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years by The New York Times. In it, he talked about growing up in Jackson and his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and gambling.
Mildred D. Taylor
Book banned: “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry”
Taylor, born in Jackson, Mississippi, grew up in Toledo, Ohio. The Author of several books received a Newbery Medal for “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.” The story was set In Mississippi at the height of the Great Depression. The Black family at the center of the novel stood their ground and remained united against the racism that surrounded them.
Books banned: “The Hate U Give,” “Concrete Rose”
Angie Thomas, born, raised, and still living in Jackson, rose to national acclaim through her 2017 debut novel, “The Hate U Give.” The New York Times bestseller shed light on police brutality through the lens of protagonist Starr Carter. “Concrete Rose” is a prequel novel to “The Hate U Give,” focusing on the adolescence of Starr’s father, Maverick Carter.
Book banned: “The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race”
Jesmyn Ward, the recipient of the 2022 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, is a Professor of English at Tulane University in New Orleans. Born in Berkeley, California, she moved to Delisle, Mississippi when she was three.
The anthology she edited, “The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race,” gets perspectives on race and racism from a variety of different authors. At least two authors in this work also have Mississippi roots: U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize-Winner Natasha Trethewey and Kiese Laymon.
Book banned: “Native Son”
Richard Nathaniel Wright was born on September 1908 on Rucker’s Plantation in Adams County in South Mississippi. “Native Son’s” main character is Bigger Thomas. Thomas, a Black man in Chicago, accidentally killed his white employer’s daughter and then killed his girlfriend to prevent her from telling the police. It ultimately was a commentary on how Thomas’ -or anyone’s- circumstances affect the impact they make on society as a whole.
Information on banned books comes from PEN America.