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.



In CitizenCast

The Citizen’s podcast version of Ali Velshi’s banned book interview with author Alex Gino shares the impact of banning a book for children whose very identities pose a danger to them.



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Listen: Ali Velshi Banned Book Club on Melissa with Alex Gino

MSBNC's Ali Velshi speaks with the acclaimed trans author about the effects of book banning

Listen: Ali Velshi Banned Book Club on Melissa with Alex Gino

MSBNC's Ali Velshi speaks with the acclaimed trans author about the effects of book banning

Melissa is a middle-grades work of fiction that was, from 2015 to 2022, titled George.  This year, author Alex Gino renamed the multi-award-winning book to befit the true name of the main character, a child whose assigned gender at birth did not match her gender identity.

In this episode of #VelshiBannedBookClub, Gino and Citizen Board Member and MSNBC host Ali Velshi speak about the dangers of book banning. As the gender queer author of a banned book about growing up trans, “To be told what is wrong with the book is my existence is a real hit to the gut,” says Gino.

Banning a kids’ book can increase its visibility and sales, says Gino, but it still reduces access. “Most children do not have spending money to go to the bookstore,” they say, “School is the place where they can get that information, where they can get needed tools for figuring out who they are — and for figuring out who other people are.”

Without giving kids access to books like Melissa, “You end up with adults who are either hurt and scarred, or who don’t know how to interact with a trans person — and that’s where you get epidemic levels of violence against trans people, especially trans women of color.”

“I could have used this book as a kid. If I had had visibility of people like me, my life would be different now. I want to provide that for other people,” says Gino. “Information saves lives. Books save lives.”

Listen to the interview below:


Velshi and Gino Discuss Melissa:


Velshi on banned books on MSNBC:



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