This past Monday, as part of National Library Week, the American Library Association (ALA) released their State of America’s Libraries report. Much of the report focuses on issues and trends in libraries across America, including school, academic and public libraries.
One topic that is featured in the report includes the top 10 most challenged books in 2017. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) reported that bans and challenges to remove or restrict access to library materials increased in 2017. The organization tracked 354 challenges to library, school and university materials and services. Some individual challenges resulted in requests to restrict or remove multiple titles. Overall, 416 books were targeted.
From the OIF report, challenges most frequently took place in public libraries and schools, and they are most typically challenged by patrons and parents. Books described as violent, sexually explicit, religious, LGBT, profane, and politically biased are most commonly challenged.
Libraries fight adamantly against challenges and bans to books because it is a form of censorship that attempts to silence both the stories being told and the discussions surrounding them. Anyone wanting to learn more about intellectual freedom and banned books can visit www.ala.org/bbooks.
This year’s top 10 challenged books, and descriptions why, are listed below in order of most frequently challenged. Information for the list is provided by the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom.
1. “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher. Originally published in 2007, this New York Times bestseller has resurfaced as a controversial book after Netflix aired a TV series by the same name. This YA novel was challenged and banned in multiple school districts because it discusses suicide.
2. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie. Consistently challenged since its publication in 2007 for acknowledging issues such as poverty, alcoholism and sexuality, this National Book Award winner was challenged in school curricula because of profanity and situations that were deemed sexually explicit.
3. “Drama” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier. A Stonewall Honor Award winner, the 2012 graphic novel from an acclaimed cartoonist was challenged and banned in school libraries because it includes LGBT characters and was considered “confusing.”
4. “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini. This critically acclaimed, multigenerational novel was challenged and banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.”
5. “George” by Alex Gino. Written for elementary-age children, this Lambda Literary Award winner was challenged and banned because it includes a transgender child.
6. “Sex is a Funny Word” written by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth. This 2015 informational children’s book written by a certified sex educator was challenged because it addresses sex education and is believed to lead children to “want to have sex or ask questions about sex.”
7. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. This Pulitzer Prize–winning novel, considered an American classic, was challenged and banned because of violence and its use of the N-word.
8. “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. Despite winning multiple awards and being the most searched for book on Goodreads during its debut year, this YA novel was challenged and banned in school libraries and curricula because it was considered “pervasively vulgar” and because of drug use, profanity and offensive language.
9. “And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole. Returning after a brief hiatus from the Top Ten Most Challenged list, this ALA Notable Children’s Book, published in 2005, was challenged and labeled because it features a same-sex relationship.
10. “I Am Jazz” written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas. This autobiographical picture book cowritten by the 13-year-old protagonist was challenged because it addresses gender identity.
If you have a question that you would like to see answered in this column, mail it to Nicole Fowles, Delaware County District Library, 84 E. Winter St., Delaware, OH 43015, or call us at 740-362-3861. You can also email your questions by visiting the library’s web site at www.delawarelibrary.org or directly to Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org. No matter how you contact us, we’re always glad you asked!