Amid the rising number of books being pulled from shelves across the country, a new program has been designed to shine a light on the literary voices that have become targets of censorship. On February 17, the Eleanor Roosevelt Center and the Fisher Center at Bard College will host the first-ever Eleanor Roosevelt Banned Book Awards. This initiative will honor seven authors whose work has been challenged by local governments and school boards, earning the distinction of the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Bravery in Literature.

Civil Rights Crusader

The Eleanor Roosevelt Center’s mission is to build on the former First Lady’s efforts pertaining to civil and human rights. In keeping with that aim, the awards program was inspired by a desire to recognize literature that has been the subject of scrutiny in recent years. “With the alarming rise of book banning around our country, the new Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Bravery in Literature will immediately work to elevate and protect books that are routinely being attacked,” said Dan Ilani, board member of the Eleanor Roosevelt Center and chair of the Eleanor Roosevelt Literary Awards committee. Ilani and fellow board members consulted with the Mid-Hudson Library System’s 66 New York libraries to choose this year’s award recipients.

The 2024 award winners, cited for their books highlighting racial justice, LGBTQ+ rights, and gender equality, include Laurie Halse Anderson (Shout), Mike Curato (Flamer), Alex Gino (Melissa, previously published as George), George M. Johnson (All Boys Aren’t Blue), Jelani Memory (A Kids Book About Racism) and Maia Kobabe (Gender Queer). In addition, Judy Blume will be honored with the first Eleanor Roosevelt Lifetime Achievement Award for Bravery in Literature and will appear via livestream.

Joining the authors on stage will be keynote speakers Emily Drabinski, president of the American Library Association, and Matt Nosanchuk, deputy assistant secretary in the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education. Other partners assisting with the awards presentation include the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Freedom to Read Foundation, Penguin Random House, the Mid-Hudson Library System, Oblong Books, the Maurice D. Hinchey Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, and the Hudson Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center.

Tickets for the event, which will be held at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., can be purchased online. Copies of all featured titles will be available for purchase that evening, courtesy of Oblong Booksin Rhinebeck, N.Y. All proceeds will go toward future programming, including the 2025 Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Bravery in Literature.

For more information, visit the Eleanor Roosevelt Center website.