What's the Deal?

with Ali Velshi's Banned Book Club

MSBNC host Ali Velshi founded his #VelshiBannedBookClub in February 2022, in response to the increasingly widespread practice of schools and libraries prohibiting readers — especially young readers — from accessing books that adults believe would make these readers uncomfortable.

These books include such literary classics as Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and  Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, contemporary tomes such as Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning and How to be an Antiracist, and illustrated children’s books, New Kid and I Am Rosa Parks. Sadly, the list is way too long to include.


Learn More

About Tonga's schoolboy castaways

60 Minutes revisits the circa 1965 story of six students ran away from boarding school in Tonga, “borrowed” a whaling boat, made for Fiji — and ended up on the small, deserted island of Ata, where they fended for themselves for over a year until being discovered by an Australian lobster fisherman.


In CitizenCast

The Citizen’s podcast version of Ali Velshi’s banned book interview with historian Rutger Bregman, who tells the real-life version of Lord of the Flies. Turns out, the true story of six boys shipwrecked and stranded on an island is stranger — and more optimistic — than fiction.



Listen: Ali Velshi Banned Book Club on Lord of the Flies with Rutger Bregman

William Golding's literary classic is worth reading — but the true story of six shipwrecked Tongan boys ends much, much better.

Listen: Ali Velshi Banned Book Club on Lord of the Flies with Rutger Bregman

William Golding's literary classic is worth reading — but the true story of six shipwrecked Tongan boys ends much, much better.

The thesis of William Golding’s often-banned classic Lord of the Flies: Without civilized oversight, humankind devolves into the worst version of itself. In this episode of #VelshiBannedBookClub, Citizen Board Member and MSNBC host Ali Velshi speaks with an expert who respectfully disagrees with Golding’s perspective — and has historic proof to back up his opinion.

Dutch historian Rutger Bregman, author of Humankind: A Hopeful History, retells the true story of six Tongan boys who, when shipwrecked on a deserted island, survived 15 months through … cooperation. “So often, in our evolution, what has helped us to survive has been cooperating. Working together — that is the secret of our species, if we’re at our best,” he says.

Nonetheless, there’s still value to reading Golding. “It helps you to ask the big questions: What is human nature really like? What would I do in a situation like that, when I’m on an uninhabited island?” says Bregman, “But kids also deserve to know about the one time — in all of world history, that we know of — when real kids shipwrecked on a real island.”

The danger of Golding’s narrative: “When you become so pessimistic about people, when you become more cynical about people, you become a little bit lazy as well. You’re like, It doesn’t matter anyway. What’s the point of trying to change the world?

Listen to the interview below:

Velshi and Bregman Discuss Lord of the Flies:


Velshi on banned books on MSNBC:


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