The Right to Read: Book Banning and Censorship | Mechanics' Institute

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The Right to Read: Book Banning and Censorship
a panel with children's book authors Marcus Ewert, Jasmine Stirling, and Sarah and Ian Hoffman

Thursday, October 5, 2023 - 6:00pm

Book banning and censorship have become a national crisis. Banning is escalating rapidly: during the first half of the 2022-23 school year, PEN America lists 1,477 instances of books banned, an increase of 28 percent compared to the prior six months. Overwhelmingly, book banners continue to target stories by and about people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals. But bans are now impacting a wider range of titles, including those that discuss health and wellbeing, cover death and grief, and portray violence and abuse. Numerous states enacted wholesale bans, in which entire classrooms and school libraries were suspended, closed, or emptied of books. As book bans gain momentum, they fuel legislative efforts to restrict teaching about topics such as race, gender, American history, and LGBTQ+ identities—and the freedom to read, learn, and think continues to be undermined for young people.*

This panel of award-winning children's book authors who have been banned, or have experienced censorship at the publisher level, will delve into this issue—from what it’s like to be a banned creator, the pressures they’ve faced to change content in their books, and what citizens can do to fight back and protect free speech, access to knowledge, and the rights of young readers.
* Source: PEN America

Jasmine A. Stirling (she/her) is the award-winning author of A Most Clever Girl: How Jane Austen Discovered Her Voice (Bloomsbury, 2021), winner of the IPNE Book Award, and a Book Riot and Mighty Girl Best Book of the Year. Her new book: Dare to Question: Carrie Chapman Catt’s Voice for the Vote (Union Square & Co, 2023, starred review, Booklist), tells the story of the queer power couple who ignited the suffrage movement and won the vote for women. Her third book, about a botanist who became the first woman to circumnavigate the world—while disguised as a man—comes out in 2025. Jasmine was formerly an education technology executive, and designed products to make learning engaging. She also served on boards for education nonprofits serving low-income students of color. Jasmine lives in an old house in San Francisco with her spouse, two daughters, and an absurdly adorable dog. Follow her on Instagram at, and learn more at (Photo by Anne-Elise Lansdown)

Sarah Hoffman (she/her) and Ian Hoffman (he/him) are the authors of Jacob’s New Dress, Jacob’s Room To Choose, and Jacob’s School Play: Starring He, She, and They! Their books have won awards from the American Library Association, Foreward Reviews, the Children’s Book Council, and Bank Street College of Education. Jacob’s New Dress currently holds the #72 spot on the ALA’s list of the Top 100 Most Banned Books of the Decade. As business partners and spouses, Sarah & Ian have been working together on building a better world for over 25 years. You can find them at, on Facebook as Sarah Hoffman, or on Instagram @sarahandianhoffman.

​In addition to other writing, Marcus Ewert has worked on children’s books since his teens, achieving acclaim with his award-winning books 10,000 Dresses (2008) and Mummy Cat (2015). 10,000 Dresses has been used in schools, churches, and youth groups around the world, as the first children’s book featuring a transgender character. A hoarder himself, Marcus wrote his most recent book, Mr. Pack Rat Really Wants That, to puzzle out a resolution to his personal hoarding dilemma. Marcus lives in San Francisco, in a beautiful—and de-cluttered—apartment. Follow Marcus on Instagram at @marcusewertwriter.

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