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 William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, contemporary tomes such as Alex Gino’s Melissa and Ibram X. Kendi’s 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.



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Velshi and Pancholy on MSNBC

Listen: Ali Velshi Banned Book Club with Maulik Pancholy

The MSNBC host speaks with the actor and author of The Best At It, a middle-grades coming-of-age novel

Listen: Ali Velshi Banned Book Club with Maulik Pancholy

The MSNBC host speaks with the actor and author of The Best At It, a middle-grades coming-of-age novel

Ali Velshi speaks with author and actor Maulik Pancholy about The Best At It, a semi-autobiographical debut novel. The book follows 12-year-old Rahul Kapoor’s journey to self-acceptance and self-love in a small Indiana town. Intended for an audience of 8 to 12-year-olds, The Best At It balances breezy, first-person writing with serious, age-appropriate themes.

The characters in The Best At It “are not engaging in any kind of sexual behavior. It’s super innocent,” says Pancholy. Kapoor simply experiences and questions new feelings for a friend of the same gender. To critics who say telling such a story influence young readers to somehow become LGBTQIA+:

“I can tell you I read thousands of books about straight kids, but I didn’t end up straight,” says Pancholy, “The idea that a kid would see something in a book and change their inherent identity because of it just isn’t true. On the other hand, giving a kid the opportunity to say, That is something that I’m experiencing that I don’t know how to process. but now I don’t feel so alone in the world: That feels incredibly important to me.”

Other themes: Over-achievement, obsessive compulsive disorder, bullying, family conflict, cultural differences, and mental health care. On this last one, Kapoor’s father awkwardly encourages his son to go to therapy. Dad doesn’t do it perfectly, but he does it. “It’s important to have that conversation, even if you’re not sure how it’s going to go,” says Pancholy.

The lesson of this banned book: “You are indeed perfect just the way you are.”

Listen to Ali’s interview with Maulik Pancholy:


Watch Velshi and Pancholy: 



Velshi on banned books on MSNBC:




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