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.



On our podcast





Buy Books Locally

Support independent booksellers

Browsing an independent bookshop doesn’t just support small businesses or authors. It also feels good. Here’s a list of more than 15 Philly bookstores to patronize. (You can even do so online, by going to and selecting them as your preferred seller.)

Listen: Ali Velshi Banned Book Club on Two Boys Kissing

The MSNBC host talks with David Levithan, author and champion of books about LGBTQ+ teens

Listen: Ali Velshi Banned Book Club on Two Boys Kissing

The MSNBC host talks with David Levithan, author and champion of books about LGBTQ+ teens

In this episode of #VelshiBannedBookClub, Ali Velshi talks with David Levithan, who is both a prolific author — including of Two Boys Kissing (2013) and Boy Meets Boy (2003) — and an editorial director at Scholastic. In these roles, he’s becoming known for both writing about and championing others’ books about  young LGBTQ+ characters. 

Two Boys Kissing is based on a true story — but Levithan doesn’t think that has anything to do with it being widely banned. “My book hits the [banned books] list because it’s called Two Boys Kissing: It shows two boys kissing on the cover; it contains more than two boys kissing inside.” Nor does it matter that he gave the book a historical, intergenerational framing — “with men who died from AIDS looking down at the current generation,” he says, “None of those subtleties matter. They just object to two boys kissing.”

The title and cover were entirely intentional, says Levithan, meant to attract readers who need to see themselves. “It would be easy to try to hide it away, to call it something else. and let people find it secretly. But I love the power of a kid walks into a library, sees that book on the shelf, and they know they’re represented.”

Levithan no longer considers being part of banned book club a bad thing. “When I started — Boy Meets Boy was published 20 years ago — you had censorship panels. There were basically the same six authors who were always on [banned lists]. Now, so many authors are being challenged. PEN says last year 1,800 authors and illustrators had their books challenged — 1,800,” he says.

“I see that figure, and I’m not afraid of the challenges. What I am is proud of publishing. I’m proud that we have that many authors writing books that people are afraid of, writing about that many identities that people want to try to silence. But 1,800 authors: You’re not going to silence us easily.”

Listen to the interview below:


Velshi and David Levithan on Two Boys Kissing:


Velshi on banned books on MSNBC:




The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil comments. If your post is offensive, not only will we not publish it, we'll laugh at you while hitting delete.

Be a Citizen Editor

Suggest a Story

Advertising Terms

We do not accept political ads, issue advocacy ads, ads containing expletives, ads featuring photos of children without documented right of use, ads paid for by PACs, and other content deemed to be partisan or misaligned with our mission. The Philadelphia Citizen is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization and all affiliate content will be nonpartisan in nature. Advertisements are approved fully at The Citizen's discretion. Advertisements and sponsorships have different tax-deductible eligibility. For questions or clarification on these conditions, please contact Director of Sales & Philanthropy Kristin Long at [email protected] or call (609)-602-0145.