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By Hanna, Coulee City Public Library

The American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom has tracked challenges to library, school, and university materials and services since 1990. Banned Books week celebrates people’s right to express and seek ideas and experiences of all kinds, even unpopular ones. Despite the name, “banned” books are usually only challenged books; in most cases, they remain on the shelf. They often also become more popular as an attempt to ban a book provides more recognition of the title. As librarian Jo Godwin said:

“A truly great library contains something in it to offend everyone.”

This year’s theme is “”Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.” Sharing stories important to us means sharing a part of ourselves. Books reach across boundaries and build connections between readers. Censorship, on the other hand, creates barriers.” (

This list includes books that were challenged last year, and books from previous years. Other than the typical and often discussed Harry Potter, the Handmaid’s Tale, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Catcher in The Rye, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, etc there are books whose challenges may surprise you. All information is from the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom

As you go through this list, think about any ones you may have read: do you think the complaints are valid? Why or why not? What do you notice and wonder about these books? Are there books in the library that make you uncomfortable, and how do you navigate that reaction? 

Top 5 from 2020

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”.

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

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

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”.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson Print, Graphic Novel

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. 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie Print, Classroom Kit, Audio CD, eBook, and Digital Audio

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

All American Boys
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
Books from Previous Years

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier. 

Years in the Top 10: 2001,2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009. 

Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence.

Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey. Series 

2002, 2004, 2005,2012,  2013, 2018

Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, sexually explicit, anti-family content, violence, encourages disruptive behavior, includes a same-sex couple

It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris.

2003, 2005, 2014.

Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, abortion, homosexuality. Additional reasons: “alleges it is child pornography”.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.


Reasons: Gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint, “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”. 

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. 2011

Reasons: Anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitivity, offensive language, occult/satanic, violence. 


Chocolate Wars
Captain Underpants
Perfectly Normal
Persepolis book cover
Hunger Games book cover

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