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Examining book ban efforts in Chicagoland

By Sidney Madden | @sidney_madden_

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The American Library Association, or ALA, said Monday it tracked more challenges to ban books last year than it had since 2000, when the Chicago-based nonprofit started collecting the data. 

In 2021, the ALA saw nearly 730 challenges to remove almost 1,600 books in schools, libraries, and universities across the country — much higher than the 156 challenges in 2020 and 317 challenges in 2019. (The 2020 data was affected by COVID-19 shutdowns in schools and libraries.)

Most of the top-challenged books were LGBTQ and Black stories.

"Gender Queer," "All Boys Aren't Blue", and "The Hate U Give" book covers.
(Simon & Schuster / Macmillan / HarperCollins)

At the top of the list is “Gender Queer,” a memoir by nonbinary cartoonist Maia Kobabe that has been challenged in Illinois and other states. 

Parents and Proud Boys opposed the book in the two Downers Grove high school libraries in the fall, WBEZ reported. Some attendees at the west suburban school board meeting in November held signs that read “no porn.” 

Last month, residents from the newly formed Freedom Park Ridge group took issue with the teen section at the northwest suburban library promoting talks about books that had queer characters and discussed sexuality like “The Girl from the Sea” or “Felix Ever After,” according to the Chicago Tribune. 

But those are only a fraction of the efforts to remove books: 90% of book challenges go unreported, according to NPR. 

So how can you fight censorship? ALA has a lot of ideas, but here are a few.

▪️ Support authors of banned books.
▪️ Participate in Banned Books Week in the fall.
▪️ Share why you’re against banning books in a video
▪️ Learn about Margaret Anderson, a queer Chicago publisher who fought censorship in the 20th century.

Tuesday’s Trivia Answer: The Winona Foster Carmen Winnemac Block Club is the oldest in the city. Founded 60 years ago, the North Side group is still active today — planning clean-ups, sidewalk sales, and helping bring businesses like Dispensary 33 to the area. 

Congrats to reader Natasha Leyk for guessing correctly! You’re the bomb dot com 👏

Pic 1: A bike at an empty beach. Pic 2: Two women walk through a nature area that is mostly brown and dead from the winter.
Left: A bike at South Shore Beach. Right: City Cast’s Carrie Shepherd and activist Emily Dupree at South Shore Nature Sanctuary Sunday. (Jacoby Cochran / City Cast)

The Obama Presidential Center isn’t the only major development hoping to call Jackson Park home. 

For years, Tiger Woods’ design firm has proposed a pro-level 18-hole golf course on the South Side. It’d combine the Jackson Park and South Shore golf courses, and be complete with new facilities, practice holes, and a $30 million underpass at 67th and South Shore Drive. 

But it could also mean the loss of affordable green fees, removal of trees, and destruction of the South Shore Nature Sanctuary as it is now. 

🎧 Emily Dupree, a Hyde Parker who runs the Save Our Sanctuary Twitter, and Tracy Raoul, Jackson Park Golf Association chair, tell us what’s at stake.


▪️ Vaccinated teachers and higher-ed employees in Illinois can use paid administrative leave instead of sick days if they contract COVID under new legislation Gov. JB Pritzker signed Tuesday. [WTTW]

▪️ Chicago speed cameras gave out almost $90 million in fines in 2021. About two thirds of those came from the recent $35 fines for going six miles over the speed limit. [WGN]

▪️ Cook County wants rider input on bus-only lanes, service expansion, and more for its first transit plan. Fill out this survey.

▪️ Dinkel’s Bakery, the 100-year-old family-run establishment in Lakeview, is closing April 30 😔 Owner Norman Dinkel is retiring. [Block Club Chicago]

▪️ Michelin stars have been awarded, and Chicago has 23 restaurants on the list including four new eateries. [Eater Chicago]

A Spotify Wrapped–like roundup listing Kanye West, Taylor Swift, Drake, Doja Cat, and Ariana Grande on a pink background.
(Sidney Madden / City Cast)

So a little birdy, aka Spotify, told us City Cast Chicago listeners’ most-listened-to artists, and it looks like we have a lot of pop and rap lovers among us!

But we want to be sure: Fill out this poll, and tell us if you’re listening to Ye, Taylor Swift, Drake, Doja Cat, or Ariana Grande — or all of the above! 

None of those artists on your playlist? That’s OK. Tell us who you are listening to instead

We’ll share the results later this week!

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