Most of the books were rated inappropriate because some people found them to be sexually explicit, had sexually explicit imagery, or included sexual references. Some books dealt with the LGBTQ experience, and one was called out for allegedly promoting “an anti-police message,” the ALA said.
The organization has been collecting data on banned books since 1990, but has published the list since at least 2001. The lists are based on media stories and reports submitted to the ALA by libraries and schools.
ALA President Patricia Wong said last year that the organization had recorded the highest number of attempted book bans since her organization began compiling its list of the most challenged books.
While the ALA supports parents’ decisions about their children’s reading and believes they shouldn’t have those choices dictated by others, Wong said students’ access to books shouldn’t be restricted.
“Young people need access to a variety of books from which they can learn about different perspectives. So despite this organized effort to ban books, libraries remain ready to do what we’ve always done: make knowledge and ideas are available so that people are free to choose what to read,” Wong said in a statement.
Criticism shifted from racial justice to gender identity
The most questioned book of 2021 was “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, which looks at the non-binary author’s journey with her own identity. Kobabe’s book has been banned or questioned in school libraries in at least a dozen states.
Kobabe previously told CNN that he wants people who call pornography “gender queer” to read the entire book.
“Read everything and judge for yourself, don’t just rely on one or two little clips you’ve seen on social media,” Kobabe said.
The students sued their school district in February over the decision to remove a total of eight books from school libraries. The district argued that the novels were banned because they address issues related to race, gender and sexual identity, according to the lawsuit.
“Banning my book will not stop me from existing, my history from existing, or future generations of children like me from existing,” Johnson said.
“What is at stake when we ban these books are real lives that need to read their story and about characters like them so that they, too, know that they can exist and thrive in this world,” they added.
The list, Johnson said, is empowering them to write even more stories.