Books about LGBTQ and Black people were among the most challenged books in 2021

As efforts to ban books from schools intensified across the United States last year, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked which books were in the spotlight in libraries, schools and universities. On Monday, the ALA published its list of the most disputed titles.

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.

two. “lawn boyby Jonathan Evanson
3. “Not all boys are blueby George M. Johnson
4. “out of the darkby Ashley Hope Perez
5. “The hate you giveby Angie Thomas
6.”The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indianby Sherman Alexie
7.”Earl and me and the dying girlby Jesse Andrews
8.”the bluest eyeby Tony Morrison
9.”this book is gayby Juno Dawson
10. “Beyond Magentaby Susan Kuklin

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.

Last year there were 729 challenges to library, school and university materials and services. That’s more than the 156 and 377 challenges reported to the ALA in 2020 and 2019, respectively.
But a challenge doesn’t mean a book is removed from library shelves or classrooms. It is an “attempt to remove or restrict materials, based on the objections of a person or group” and many times those efforts are unsuccessful, the ALA said.

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

Parents went from disagreeing with books that were primarily about racism and racial justice in 2020 to being more focused on books that are about gender identity and sexual orientation.
State legislators proposed dozens of bills that restrict classroom reading across the country. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has asked school boards in his state to remove books he described as “pornography.” All while more school districts continue to pull books reported as “inappropriate” from their library shelves.

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.

Three other books included in the 2021 list, “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” “Lawn Boy” and “The Bluest Eye,” were the subject of a lawsuit filed earlier this year by two students in Missouri.

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.

"What is at stake when we ban these books are real lives that need to read their story..."  author George M. Johnson told CNN.
For George M. Johnson, the author of “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” the many challenges to his book and its inclusion on the ALA list indicate how important his work is to students and teens.

“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.

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