Banned Books Week is September 26th through October 2nd. Although this is called Banned Books Week, we are really discussing “attempted bans” or “challenges” since most libraries are committed to stopping censorship of their materials. This is an annual event that celebrates everyone’s right to read and combats censorship by drawing extra attention to books that are frequently challenged. Banned Books Week is supported by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom where they keep track of statistics about challenged books and the outcomes of those challenges.
Libraries are inherently anti-censorship because they recognize that they serve a large and diverse population with large and diverse areas of interest. In the Library Bill of Rights (one of the foundational documents under which all American libraries operate), equal access is addressed several times. However, it is made abundantly clear in article three that “Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.”
Statistics from the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom show that titles are most often challenged by parents, and the most common complaints are that a book is unsuitable for a certain age group or depicts some kind of diverse content. Of the Top Ten Challenged Books of 2019, eight of them were targeted for depicting LGBTQAI+ content and being inappropriate for young readers despite (in most cases) being published with those readers in mind.
Below are the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2020 as reported by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom:
- George by Alex Gino. 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. 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.Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism and because it was thought to promote antipolice views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now.”
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint, it was claimed to be biased against male students, and it included rape and profanity.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct on the part of the author.
- Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin. Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote antipolice views.
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience.
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes and their negative effect on students.
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse.
- The Hate U Giveby Angie Thomas. Challenged for profanity, and because it was thought to promote an antipolice message.