By Collection Management Librarian Dontaná McPherson-Joseph
Every year during Banned Books Week (September 26-October 2 this year), the American Library Association (ALA) celebrates the freedom to read by recognizing books that have been challenged, censored, and banned in libraries and schools.
Check out the top ten most challenged books—and why they were challenged—from the last year (compiled from data from the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom).
Celebrate your freedom to read
Melissa's Story by Alex Gino*
Why was it challenged, banned, and/or restricted? It contains LGBTQIA+ content, and conflicts with a religious viewpoint.
Description: Knowing herself to be a girl despite her outwardly male appearance, Melissa is denied a female role in the class play before teaming up with a friend to reveal her true self.
*The title of Alex Gino’s first book has been updated since its publication. Interested in learning more about this change? Read this post from the author »
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism & You by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi
Why was it challenged, banned, and/or restricted? There are claims the authors engaged in "selective storytelling incidents," and as a reaction to the author's public statements.
Description: A history of racist and antiracist ideas in America, from their roots in Europe until today, adapted from the National Book Award winner Stamped from the Beginning.
All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
Why was it challenged, banned, and/or restricted? It was deemed to be anti-police, and includes profanity and references to drug use.
Description: When 16-year-old Rashad is mistakenly accused of stealing, classmate Quinn witnesses his brutal beating at the hands of a police officer who happens to be the older brother of his best friend. Told through Rashad and Quinn's alternating viewpoints.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Why was it challenged, banned, and/or restricted? It was "thought to contain a political viewpoint," and includes depictions of rape and use of profanity.
Description: A traumatic event in the summer has a devastating effect on Melinda's freshman year of high school.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Why was it challenged, banned, and/or restricted? Mainly for its use of profanity and sexual references, but also because of the author's inappropriate behavior.
Description: Budding cartoonist Junior leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white farm town school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
Something Happened in Our Town by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins & Ann Hazard; illus. by Jennifer Zivoin
Why was it challenged, banned, and/or restricted? The content was considered divisive and anti-police.
Description: After discussing the police shooting of a local Black man with their families, Emma and Josh know how to treat a new student who looks and speaks differently than his classmates.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Why was it challenged, banned, and/or restricted? A classic entry to this list because of its use of racial slurs and perception of the Black experience.
Description: Scout Finch, daughter of the town lawyer, likes to spend her summers building treehouses, swimming, and catching lightning bugs with her big brother Jem. But one summer, when a Black man is accused of raping a white woman, Scout's carefree days come to an end. In the county courtroom, she will join her father in a desperate battle against ignorance and prejudice.
Of Mice & Men by John Steinbeck
Why was it challenged, banned, and/or restricted? It contains racial slurs and racist stereotypes.
Description: The tragic story of two itinerant ranch hands on the run—one is the lifelong companion to the other, a developmentally disabled man.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Why was it challenged, banned, and/or restricted? Morrison's well-known novel is considered sexually explicit and includes depictions of child sexual abuse.
Description: Eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, an African-American girl in an America whose love for blonde, blue-eyed children can devastate all others, prays for her eyes to turn blue, so that she will be beautiful, people will notice her, and her world will be different.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Why was it challenged, banned, and/or restricted? This modern classic uses profanity and is considered anti-police.
Description: After witnessing her friend's death at the hands of a police officer, Starr Carter's life is complicated when the police and a local drug lord try to intimidate her in an effort to learn what happened the night Kahlil died.
Dontaná is a Collection Management Librarian who was born with an unending reading list. She is almost always reading two books simultaneously and is easily distracted by cool covers.