Bard College is hosting a historic new awards ceremony honoring authors who are pushing boundaries and refusing to have their voices be silenced. As more and more schools and communities try to shut down certain avenues of reading, authors and literary advocates are finding ways to get impactful and meaningful stories into the hands of those who need them.

The First Annual Eleanor Roosevelt Banned Book Awards to Happen at Bard College in Dutchess County

The Eleanor Roosevelt Center and the Fisher Center at Bard College announce the launch of the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Bravery in Literature and the first Eleanor Roosevelt Banned Book Awards ceremony. The ceremony will honor the inaugural award-winners—a group of trailblazing authors who have championed intellectual freedom and the fight against censorship.

Seven authors will be awarded at our first annual ceremony, each for a vital work of literature that has experienced challenges and has been banned by local municipalities, governments, or school boards. The awards for 2024 will be given to authors whose works focus on racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, and gender equality.

Awardees include:

• Laurie Halse Anderson for SHOUT
• Mike Curato for Flamer
• Alex Gino for Melissa (previously published as George)
• George M. Johnson for All Boys Aren’t Blue
• Jelani Memory for A Kids Book About Racism
• Maia Kobabe for Gender Queer (appearing virtually)

Judy Blume to Receive the first Eleanor Roosevelt Lifetime Achievement Award for Bravery in Literature at Bard College

The Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Bravery in Literature follows on from three decades of the Eleanor Roosevelt Center honoring individuals who embrace her call to build a better world through humanitarian efforts in education, advocacy, social justice, and civil and human rights. Eleanor Roosevelt was a prolific writer, authoring hundreds of articles and essays and 28 books in her lifetime. She was passionate about supporting the role of libraries and the importance of access to information as an essential element of democracy. She tirelessly championed the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has become the foundation of international human rights law, and is celebrating its 75th anniversary. The rights in Article 19 on intellectual freedom are at the very heart of this award.

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Along with the recipients, legendary author Judy Blume will receive the first Eleanor Roosevelt Lifetime Achievement Award for Bravery In Literature, and will join for a virtual conversation. Blume is best-known for her young adult novels, which deal with controversial subjects such as puberty, sex, religion, bullying, and depression. I grew up reading several of her books in school. One of her most popular novels, "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret" was turned into a movie last year starring Rachel McAdams and Abby Ryder Fortson.

At the ceremony, the authors will be joined on stage by leaders in the field—Emily Drabinski, President of the American Library Association, and Matt Nosanchuck, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office for Civil Rights, United States Department of Education, often referred to as the Biden Administration’s “Banned Book Czar”—providing insights from the front lines of the fight against banning books.

The award is designed by artist, author, and creative director George McCalman. It will honor, protect, and elevate essential works of literature that advance human rights—even in the face of adversity. We live in a time when more books than ever before in U.S. history are banned.

Numerous national and local Hudson Valley organizations are collaborating to present the Awards with the Eleanor Roosevelt Center and the Fisher Center, including, National Coalition Against CensorshipFreedom To Read FoundationPenguin Random HouseMid-Hudson Library SystemOblong Books and The Hudson Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center. Additionally, Bard College’s Center for Civic EngagementCenter for Ethics and WritingCommunity Arts CollectiveCommunity Partner Gender Equity Initiative, and Office of the Dean of Inclusive Excellence, as well as the Stevenson Library, are joining in the collaboration.

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