Top 10 Book Banning by American Library Association
Top 10 Book Banning by American Library Association

Books are still being banned and challenged today. A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials.

While books have been and continue to be banned, part of the Banned Books Week celebration is the fact that, in a majority of cases, the books have remained available. This happens only thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, students, and community members who stand up and speak out for the freedom to read.

Book banning, a form of censorship, occurs when private individuals, government officials, or organizations remove books from libraries, school reading lists, or bookstore shelves because they object to their content, ideas, or themes. Those advocating a ban complain typically that the book in question contains graphic violence, expresses disrespect for parents and family, is sexually explicit, exalts evil, lacks literary merit, is unsuitable for a particular age group, or includes offensive language.

ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) receives reports from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to ban books in communities across the country. We compile lists of challenged books in order to inform the public about censorship efforts that affect libraries and schools.

According to ALA, recent polling showed that seven in 10 voters oppose efforts to remove books from public libraries, including majorities of voters across party lines.

And 74% of parents of public school children express a high degree of confidence in school libraries to make good decisions about which books to make available to children.

When asked about specific types of books that have been a focus of local debates, large majorities say for each that they should be available in school libraries on an age-appropriate basis.

In response to the uptick in book challenges and other efforts to suppress access to information, ALA will launch Unite Against Book Bans, a national initiative focused on empowering readers everywhere to stand together in the fight against censorship.

Book banning is the most widespread form of censorship in the United States

Photo: npr
Photo: npr

Book banning is the most widespread form of censorship in the United States, with children’s literature being the primary target. Advocates for banning a book or certain books fear that children will be swayed by its contents, which they regard as potentially dangerous. They commonly fear that these publications will present ideas, raise questions, and incite critical inquiry among children that parents, political groups, or religious organizations are not ready to address or that they find inappropriate.

Most challenges and bans prior to the 1970s focused primarily on obscenity and explicit sexuality. Common targets included D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover and James Joyce’s Ulysses. In the late 1970s, attacks were launched on ideologies expressed in books.

In September 1990, the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression declared the First Amendment to be “in perilous condition across the nation” based on the results of a comprehensive survey on free expression. Even literary classics, including Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, were targeted. Often, the complaints arose from individual parents or school board members. At other times, however, the pressure to censor came from such public interest groups as the Moral Majority.

Censorship — the suppression of ideas and information — can occur at any stage or level of publication, distribution, or institutional control. Some pressure groups claim that the public funding of most schools and libraries makes community censorship of their holdings legitimate.

To counter charges of censorship, opponents of publications sometimes use the tactic of restricting access rather than calling for the physical removal of books. Opponents of bans argue that by restricting information and discouraging freedom of thought, censors undermine one of the primary functions of education: teaching students how to think for themselves. Such actions, assert free speech proponents, endanger tolerance, free expression, and democracy.

Top 10 Book Banning of 2021

1. “Gender Queer,” by Maia Kobabe

2. “Lawn Boy,” by Jonathan Evison

3. “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” by George M. Johnson

4. “Out of Darkness,” by Ashley Hope Perez

5. “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas

6. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie

7. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” by Jesse Andrews

8. “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison

9. “This Book is Gay,” by Juno Dawson

10. “Beyond Magenta,” by Susan Kuklin

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1. “Gender Queer,” by Maia Kobabe

Photo: texastribune
Photo: texastribune

Reasons: Banned, challenged and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to have sexually explicit images.

This heartfelt graphic memoir relates, with sometimes painful honesty, the experience of growing up non-gender-conforming. From a very young age, Kobabe is unsure whether to claim a lesbian/gay, bisexual, or even transgender identity: “I don’t want to be a girl. I don’t want to be a boy either. I just want to be myself.” Kobabe comes of age having to navigate expressions of identity such as clothing and haircuts, with fraught attempts at romantic and sexual entanglements. Eventually, Kobabe’s supportive sister concludes: “I think you’re a genderless person.” (Kobabe: “She knew before I did.”)

2. “Lawn Boy,” by Jonathan Evison

Photo: amazon
Photo: amazon

Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.

This moving fifth novel from Evison (This is Your Life, Harriet Chance) enters the wry, conflicted mind of Mike Muñoz, a recently fired yard worker with a real talent for topiary and a genuine love for landscaping. When Mike is sacked after refusing to comply with a client’s orders to pick up after his dog, he takes refuge in the one place in the world that’s always welcomed him: the library. As he tries to figure out what to do next, Mike contemplates writing the “Great American Landscaping Novel”—the sort of novel he’d like to read—but writing novels, he realizes, isn’t for people like him: “landscapers, especially unemployed ones... had bills to pay.

3. “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” by George M. Johnson

Photo: bmoreart
Photo: bmoreart

Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and profanity, and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.

Billed as a “memoir-manifesto,” Johnson’s debut is a collection of heartfelt personal essays revolving around themes of identity and family. Growing up black and queer in New Jersey and Virginia, Johnson feels a tension between these two identities, even before he’s fully conceptualized what makes him stand out from others in his close-knit family. The loving Elder/Johnson clan, led by witty matriarch Nanny (whose take on familial loyalty and intimacy is “You might have to wipe my ass one day”), includes Johnson’s cousin Hope, a trans woman who models pride and self-determination. Johnson’s writing is a stylistic hodgepodge of anecdotes (“story time,” he periodically declares) and letters to relatives. In a publishing landscape in need of queer black voices, readers who are sorting through similar concepts will be grateful to join him on the journey.

4. “Out of Darkness,” by Ashley Hope Perez

Photo: goodreads
Photo: goodreads

Reasons: Banned, challenged and restricted for depictions of abuse, and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.

The novels that burn into our minds as young adults often involve horror of some kind. A mere mention of “All Quiet on the Western Front” or “I Am the Cheese,” and I’m right back to brooding again in the ocean-deep emotions of my adolescence. What is that urge, the desire to soak in anguish and injustice as we come of age? Whatever it is, Ashley Hope Pérez’s new novel, “Out of Darkness,” fills the need. Her layered tale of color lines, love and struggle in an East Texas oil town is a pit-in-the-stomach family drama that goes down like it should, with pain and fascination, like a mix of sugary medicine and artisanal moonshine. I actually had to close the book at one point to seek respite with Facebook. And puppies.

5. “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas

Photo: medium
Photo: medium

Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, violence, and because it was thought to promote an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda.

At home in a neighborhood riven with gang strife, Starr Carter, 16, is both the grocer’s daughter and an outsider, because she attends private school many miles away. But at Williamson Prep, where she’s among a handful of black students, she can’t be herself either: no slang, no anger, no attitude. That version of herself—“Williamson Starr”—“doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto.” She’s already wrestling with what Du Bois called “double consciousness” when she accepts a ride home from Khalil, a childhood friend, who is then pulled over and shot dead by a white cop. Starr’s voice commands attention from page one, a conflicted but clear-eyed lens through which debut author Thomas examines Khalil’s killing, casual racism at Williamson, and Starr’s strained relationship with her white boyfriend. Though Thomas’s story is heartbreakingly topical, its greatest strength is in its authentic depiction of a teenage girl, her loving family, and her attempts to reconcile what she knows to be true about their lives with the way those lives are depicted—and completely undervalued—by society at large.

6. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie

Photo: deelasees
Photo: deelasees

Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references and use of a derogatory term.

Screenwriter, novelist and poet, Alexie bounds into YA with what might be a Native American equivalent of Angela’s Ashes, a coming-of-age story so well observed that its very rootedness in one specific culture is also what lends it universality, and so emotionally honest that the humor almost always proves painful. Presented as the diary of hydrocephalic 14-year-old cartoonist and Spokane Indian Arnold Spirit Jr., the novel revolves around Junior’s desperate hope of escaping the reservation.

7. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” by Jesse Andrews

Photo: chadwbeckerman
Photo: chadwbeckerman

Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and degrading to women.

In his debut novel, Andrews tackles some heavy subjects with irreverence and insouciance. Senior Greg Gaines has drifted through high school trying to be friendly with everyone but friends with no one, moving between cliques without committing. His only hobby is making awful movies with his foul-mouthed pal Earl. Greg’s carefully maintained routine is upset when his mother encourages him to spend time with Rachel, a classmate suffering from leukemia. Greg begrudgingly rekindles his friendship with Rachel, before being conned into making a movie about her. Narrated by Greg, who brings self-deprecation to new heights (or maybe depths), this tale tries a little too hard to be both funny and tragic, mixing crude humor and painful self-awareness.

8. “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison

Photo: shopatmatter
Photo: shopatmatter

Reasons: Banned and challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit.

The Bluest Eye is not only a story but an awe-inspiring poem that confronts beauty itself and the consequences of beauty standards on individuals that do not meet them. Beauty is an obsession that has been present throughout history, which is why this novel, set in the 1940s, continues to awe readers today.

The title is taken from the protagonist’s desire to have blue eyes. “Whiteness” is the beauty standard that Pecola Breedlove cannot fit in with, and from this her obsession with having blue eyes stems.

9. “This Book is Gay,” by Juno Dawson

Photo: gaystarnews
Photo: gaystarnews

Reasons: Banned, challenged, relocated and restricted for providing sexual education and LGBTQIA+ content.

First published in the U.K., this irreverent, informative handbook offers a wide-ranging overview of gender identity, sexual orientation, coming out, dating, and more. Adopting a humorous tone that should help set anxious readers at ease, Dawson dismantles stereotypes, such as “Gay women hate men” (“I imagine they’d hate men who said that to them, yes”); defines a range of terms from “camp” to “cubs”; and offers (very) frank information about sex (“A bit of spit, Brokeback Mountain–style, is NOT a substitute for a proper water-based lubricant”). Gerrell’s playful b&w cartoons help maintain an encouraging atmosphere, even when Dawson turns to homophobia/transphobia, anti-gay legislation, and STDs. Readers will find guidance to navigating their sexual identities and more general advice about self-esteem, forming respectful relationships, and seeking personal fulfillment.

10. “Beyond Magenta,” by Susan Kuklin

Photo: dailymail
Photo: dailymail

Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.

In a sorely needed resource for teens and, frankly, many adults, author/photographer Kuklin shares first-person narratives from six transgender teens, drawn from interviews she conducted and shaped with input from her subjects. The six “chapters” read like personal histories, with Kuklin interjecting occasional context and helping bridge jumps in time. Readers will gain a real understanding of gender as a spectrum and a societal construct, and of the challenges that even the most well-adjusted, well-supported transgender teens face, from mockery by peers and adults alike to feelings of isolation and discomfort in their own bodies.

Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020

1. George by Alex Gino

Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”

2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds

Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people

3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”

4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author

6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin

Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience

8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students

9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse

10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message

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