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.” (BannedBooksWeek.org)
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”.
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.
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author.
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.
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.