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The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has released a list of the top 10 most challenging books of 2021. They tracked 729 challenges, representing 1,597 books, but these were the only challenges that were either reported to the ALA or received significant media attention. They estimate that about 90% of the official challenges are not reported and there is no media coverage, while many more books are “formally” removed from the shelves or never stored for fear of being challenged.
Here are the top 10 most banned and challenged books of 2021, as well as their challenges.
# 10: Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
This is a YA nonfiction title that includes interviews with trans teens and adults about their gender identity discovery and outing experiences. It also contains photographs.
It was challenged for LGBTQIA content and accused of being “sexually explicit”.
It received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Booklist, and was a 2015 Stonewall Honors book.
# 9: This book is gay by Juno Dawson
This book is gay This is a YA non-fiction book that serves as a self-contained guide to adolescents’ gender and sexuality as well as what to do after coming out. It also contains personal stories of LGBTQIA people
It was challenged for LGBTQIA content and for providing sex education.
It received a starred review from the booklist, named one Guardian Best Book of the Year, and winner of the 2018 Garden State Teen Book Award.
# 8: The Blues Eye By Tony Morrison
It is the title of a literary fiction that addresses racism and is popularly taught in AP English classes and university classrooms.
It was challenged to portray child sexual abuse and was accused of being sexually explicit
Tony Morrison has won the Nobel Prize and the Pulitzer Prize, and is considered one of the best American novelists of all time.
# 7: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
A YA novel about a teenage boy befriending a girl with cancer was compared to The Fault in Our Stars when it was first published, but with a very different tone.
It was challenged on charges of being sexually explicit and degrading to women
The book was made into a film that won the Sundance Grand Jury Award. The title has also received star reviews from Kirkus and Booklist and has won several YALSA awards.
# 6: Absolutely real diary of a part-time Indian By Sherman Alexi
This is an illustrated YA novel about an indigenous teenager going to early white school.
It was challenged for obscenity, “sexual harassment” and “using an abusive word”.
This title was a National Book Award winner. It also won an American Indian Youth Literature Award, but the award was withdrawn after multiple female Alexis talked about their sexual harassment.
# 5: The Hate You Give Angie Thomas
The Hate You Give A black teenage girl follows a black male friend who, unarmed, is killed by police.
It was challenged for being obscene, violent and “anti-police”.
It was a # 1 New York Times bestseller, receiving eight starred reviews, one William C. Morris was a Debut Award winner and it became a popular film.
# 4: Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
It’s a YA Tech with Romeo and Juliet who follows a Mexican American teenage girl and a 1937 black teenage boy in Texas who falls in love. It deals with the racism and abuse of the main character in this environment.
It was challenged to portray abuse and was accused of being sexually explicit.
It was a Printz Honor Book, a School Library Journal Best Book, a Curcus Review Book of the Year and the winner of the Thomas Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award.
# 3: Not all boys are blue by George M. Johnson
This is stated in a YA memoir in a personal essay on “The Trials and Conquests Faced by the Black Queer Boys”.
It was challenged for obscenity and LGBTQIA content, and was accused of sexual harassment.
It was a New York Times bestseller, being substituted for TV, it was an Amazon Best Book of the Year, an ALA Rainbow List Pick, a New York Library 2020 Best Book, a Circus Review 2020 Best Book, a Kids Book. Choice Award Finalist, # 1 YALSA Tin Top Ten List Winner and more.
# 2: Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
Lawn boy A 22-year-old Mexican-American teenager trying to find himself in an adult fictional title. It deals with race, class and sexual identity.
It was challenged for LGBTQIA content and accused of being sexual (Specifically, the title is often falsely accused of pedophilia, as it contains a scene where the main character thinks of experimenting with another boy when they were both younger.)
It has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Booklist.
# 1: Gender queer By Maya Kobabe
This is a graphic memoir about coming out as non-binary and asexual.
It was challenged for LGBTQIA content and accused of having sexually explicit images.
It has won the 2020 Alex Award and the Stonewall Book Award.
The ALA has its own page for this title, which includes awards and honors, reviews, where it has been banned / challenged, and additional resources.
The ALA shared a word cloud with the most common reasons for banning or challenging books It serves as a snapshot of the political discourse surrounding these last year’s books, with some common causes of “LGBTQIA”, “Critical Race Theory” and “Week”. (Which is next to “sexually explicit” Coincidentally Applies only to LGBTQIA books or people of color.)
You can see the top ten most challenging books from the previous year recorded by the Office for Intellectual Freedom on the ALA website.
To keep up with the censorship news, check out the book Censorship Weekly Censorship News Roundup. To combat censorship and book bans, try the Anti-Censorship Tool Kit.
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