This Book Won't Burn

This Book Won't Burn by Samira Ahmed (Internment) is an inspiring YA novel that celebrates the power of books as it follows a desi Muslim teen who speaks out against censorship.

Eighteen-year-old Indian American Noor Khan is shocked by the empty shelves in her new school's library and enraged when she learns nearly 500 queer and BIPOC books have been pulled for "review" due to "obscene" content. Noor, furious, exploits school-rule loopholes to protest: she wears a shirt that says, "I read banned books," reads aloud from prohibited titles during off-campus lunch, and erects "fREADom libraries" around town. In response, the local chapter of "Liberty Moms and Dads," a group that "basically control[s]" the school board, vows to stand against "groomers and the woke agenda," while Islamophobic, racist, and fascist vitriol from incensed community members bespeaks violence. Noor, together with a small group of friends, scrambles to defend herself with what she knows best: the power of words.

Noor faces an onslaught of hate, such as a principal who calls queer books "pornographic" and a police captain who suggests a swastika painted on Noor's garage isn't a hate crime because she's Muslim. Ahmed infuses this eye-opening story with excerpts from her own peers' banned books, including Mark Oshiro's Anger Is a Gift and Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely's All American Boys, to support the idea that "seeing yourself in a book can sometimes save you." Also featured are a heroic librarian, a fierce Indian mom, and the confusion of teen attraction. Through it all, Noor stands by her belief that book bans serve only to "keep us ignorant... [and] easier to control." Incendiary. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

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