Literary Quote of the Month

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one." - George R.R. Martin, A Dance With Dragons

Saturday, October 7, 2023

2 Books to Wrap Up Banned Books Week...

The Arabic Quilt
The Great Banned-Books Bake Sale
Both written by Aya Khalil, illustrated by Anait Semidzhyan

As we wrap up Banned Books Week, I wanted to share two books I was reading about this week. The Arabic Quilt and The Great Banned-Books Bake Sale by Aya Khalil. The first book I read about was The Great Banned-Books Bake Sale and I thought it was a great book for children to read about to understand about what banned books were. But when I read about why author Aya Khalil actually wrote the book, I was even more interested....

"They banned my debut, so I wrote a picture book about it."
                                                                                               ...Aya Khalil

Aya Khalil was inspired to write the story of The Arabic Quilt based on her own experiences growing up as an immigrant. Her family moved to the United States from Egypt when she was one, and eventually going to elementary school, Aya was the only Muslim in her class. This made for some challenges for Aya and in an essay she wrote for We Need Diverse Books she recounts some of these challenges, including when a classmate tells her to "Go Back to your country". I can't imagine going thru all of that at such a tender age. Fast forward to Aya writing The Arabic Quilt, getting it published, the book enjoying a place in school libraries and book stores. This was her debut book. A book she believed in. It was very popular. The Arabic Quilt was published in February of 2020 and by the Fall of 2021, Aya was told that her book was on a list of banned books in Pennsylvania. 

I googled about The Arabic Quilt to find out why it was banned. All I could find was that it was banned period. So, I decided I would ask Aya Khalil herself. I found her on Facebook and messaged her. Her reply was this...

" The only reason it was banned was because it was on a list of diverse books and the district took off all the books on that list for no reason told."

Can you imagine a school taking all the diverse books off the shelf?! The ban was short lived with the help of student protests, which eventually lead to her writing The Great Banned-Book Bake Sale. She kept the same characters in her new book from her first book, which I think is wonderful! 

"For a period of time, students weren’t able to check out The Arabic Quilt from their libraries, and this picture book could have been the only book with a positive portrayal of an Arab Muslim."    
                                                            Aya Khalil from her essay, " They banned my debut, so I wrote a picture book about it"

The simple quote above shows one example for the need for diversity in books. And what Aya when thru with her children's book, The Arabic Quilt, shows us how important the freedom to choose what books you want to read is. School libraries are sometimes the only place for a child to borrow a book to read. Limiting these books, banning these books, hurts children. 

Reading Aya's experiences in school touched my heart. Reading about these books touched my heart. If you'd like to learn more about Aya Khalil and her experiences, follow these links to her Blog Post in Kidlit in Color  and her essay on We Need Diverse Books

Here is a wonderful review of Aya Khalil's book The Arabic Quilt by Ronna Mandel of Good Reads with Ronna.

Read about Aya Khalil's book The Great Baned-Books Bake Sale at Goodreads.

What books did you read or read about during Banned Books Week?

I hope you found the stories behind these childrens's books as interesting as I did. And I hope during Banned Books Week you found something great to read!

Happy reading... Suzanne


1 comment:

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I need to jump in and read a banned book today, I think!

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