How to celebrate Banned Books Week in Des Moines, Iowa City

A banned book display at the Reading in Public book store in West Des Moines. Some of the books in the display were recently pulled from shelves in the Urbandale School District. Photo by Ty Rushing/Starting Line

By Amie Rivers

October 3, 2023

Iowa Republicans have been busy making sure schools only stock certain books—namely ones lawmakers (average age: 55) deem appropriate for teens these days.

Iowa teens, meanwhile, have been fighting those efforts however they can (and they’ve been joined by supportive community members, too).

So Banned Books Week seems especially relevant in Iowa this year.

Here are a couple of ways you can celebrate this week, both free and open to all:

Banned Books Festival, Des Moines

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7

Where: Franklin Junior High Event Center, 4801 Franklin Ave., Des Moines

It’s the first-ever such celebration put on by Beaverdale Books (one of Starting Line readers’ Top 25 indie bookstores in Iowa), and it’ll be an all-day affair (and free!).

The line-up includes panel discussions of which books are banned and the reasons behind it (cough, cough), along with banned poetry readings, a children’s storytime, author readings including Iowa author Kailee Coleman, a discussion of “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, and more.

“We leave it entirely up to you, our customers, to decide if [challenged or banned] books are right for you and your children—which is how we think it should work everywhere, all the time,” Beaverdale Books says on its site.

For more information, click here.

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Intellectual Freedom Festival, Iowa City

When: Oct. 4-10, various times

Where: Iowa City Public Library, 123 South Linn St., Iowa City

Officially the Carol Spaziani Intellectual Freedom Festival, named after a longtime Iowa City librarian who expanded library services and was active in her community, this weeklong celebration of Banned Books Week started in 1995 and is sponsored by the library and the city’s Office of Equity and Human Rights.

They’ll kick off Wednesday with an explanation of Iowa’s new law from One Iowa director Keenan Crow (in person and livestream), then feature an escape room designed for third- through sixth-graders, a panel discussion of the history of book bans in the Midwest (in person and livestream), a children’s storytime featuring most-banned picture books, and a special Let’s Talk Books event on Zoom all about banned and challenged books.

For more information, click here.


Amie Rivers

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  • Amie Rivers

    Amie Rivers is Starting Line's community editor, labor reporter and newsletter snarker-in-chief. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; now, she very much enjoys making TikToks and memes. Send all story tips and pet photos to [email protected] and sign up for our newsletter here.



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