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Maryland brewery stocks little free libraries with banned books

According to Pen America, 41% of the books banned have LGBTQIA+ themes, and 40% include protagonists or prominent secondary characters of color.

MARYLAND, USA — A Maryland Brewery with a reputation for helping defend the first amendment has stepped up to help stock Little Free Libraries with hundreds of restricted titles in celebration of Banned Books Week. 

What is Banned Books Week?

Banned Books Week is an annual event that celebrates literature and free speech. Readers, librarians, publishers and others in the book community come together for the week to share support for the freedom to express ideas that others may deem worth banning. The annual event first started in 1982.  

According to Pen America, a non-profit that works to defend and celebrate free expression through literature and human rights, there have been more than 2,500 decisions to ban books between July 1 and June 30. Those bans include more than 1,600 unique book titles. 

If it feels like you are hearing more about banned books, you aren't imagining it. According to the American Library Association, this spring had the largest number of attempted book bans since it began tracking the attempts 20 years ago. 

This year's Banned Books Week runs from Sept. 18 - 24. 

What is a Free Little Library?

Free Little Libraries are small wooden boxes of books that can be found all over the country. The idea is based on a "take a book, return a book" free book exchange. The concept aims to remove barriers to book access. 

"Our vision is a Little Free Library in every community and a book for every reader," reads the Free Little Library website. "We believe all people are empowered when the opportunity to discover a personally relevant book to read is not limited by time, space, or privilege."

RELATED: Book Ban Busters | Moms across the country fight to stop book banning at schools

Why is Flying Dog Brewery stocking Little Free Libraries?

The Maryland brewery is stepping up to help stock Little Free Libraries across Maryland, D.C. and Northern Virginia as a way to defend freedom of speech. The book titles will include those that have been censored, removed, or restricted from bookshelves.

"We thought we’d do something really cool by teaming up with Little Free Libraries across the area and making sure that people were aware that there are over 1500 titles of books that are banned or restricted or challenged every year," said Ben Savage, Chief Marketing Officer for Flying Dog Brewery.

The brewery said in a release it focused on five Little Free Libraries in Frederick and Baltimore in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Alexandria and Arlington in Virginia.

“If you're offended by different world views and controversial ideas out of fear and ignorance, you're the problem, not books and freedom of expression,” said Jim Caruso, CEO of Flying Dog Brewery. “Ban censors, not books.”

Flying Dog Brewery has a history of standing up against censorship. The brewery has fought to protect its first amendment rights regarding beer lables in Colorado, Michigan and North Carolina and won all three times. 

"While on the surface these lawsuits are about beer labels, they’re really about defending the 1st Amendment at the margin where all of these battles are fought," the brewery said in a release. "Civil liberties are not lost overnight, they are chipped away at bit by bit unless vigorously defended."

RELATED: Yes, new reports show a record number of 'banned books' in schools, libraries

Most Banned Titles in the 2021-22 School Year

When looking at the data provided by Pen America, 41% of the books banned include LGBTQIA+ themes, and 40% have protagonists or prominent secondary characters of color.

The titles include works from a Nobel Prize-winning author, along with best-selling books that have inspired shows, movies and a Broadway show.

According to Pen America, the following are the most commonly banned books in school districts for the 2021-22 school year across the country.  

  • Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe (41 districts)
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (29 districts)
  • Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez (24 districts)
  • The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (22 districts)
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (17 districts)
  • Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison (17 districts)
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (16 districts)
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (14 districts)
  • Crank by Ellen Hopkins (12 districts)
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (12 districts)
  • l8r, g8r by Lauren Myracle (12 districts)
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (12 districts)
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison (11 districts)
  • Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin (11 districts)
  • Drama: A Graphic Novel by Raina Telgemeier (11 districts)
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green (11 districts)
  • Melissa by Alex Gino (11 districts)
  • This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson (11 districts)
  • This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki (11 districts)

Total Bans by State

Virginia made the list of the total bans by state from Pen America, which tracked how many book bans were enacted this year:

  • Texas: 801 bans, 22 districts
  • Florida: 566 bans, 21 districts
  • Pennsylvania: 457 bans, 11 districts
  • Tennessee: 349 bans, 6 districts
  • Oklahoma: 43 bans, 3 districts
  • Michigan: 41 bans, 4 districts
  • Kansas: 30 bans, 2 districts
  • Wisconsin: 29 bans, 6 districts
  • Missouri: 27 bans, 8 districts
  • Idaho: 26 bans, 3 districts
  • Georgia: 23 bans, 2 districts
  • Mississippi: 22 bans, 1 district
  • Virginia: 19 bans, 9 districts
  • Indiana: 18 bans, 3 districts
  • North Carolina: 16 bans, 5 districts
  • New York: 13 bans, 4 districts
  • Utah: 12 bans, 3 districts

Click here to read more data regarding the attempts to ban books this year. To get involved with Banned Books Weeks, visit the American Library Association website

WATCH NEXT: How many books get banned from schools and libraries? | VERIFY

Targeted books increasingly center around characters and issues "of people who are gay, trans, Black, Indigenous, people of color, immigrants, and refugees."

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