For the third year in a row, Alex Gino's George has topped the American Library Association's list of most challenged books in American libraries.
The ALA's Most Challenged Books list, released annually in conjunction with National Library Week, which runs April 4-10 this year, tracks attempts to ban or restrict access to books across the United States and raises awareness of censorship efforts in our libraries and schools.
"In 2020, more than 273 books were challenged or banned," states an ALA release. That number is down significantly from the 377 challenges logged in 2019—but for an obvious reason: many libraries and schools were closed or moved online for much of the year.
"Demands to remove books addressing racism and racial justice or those that shared the stories of Black, Indigenous, or people of color grew in number. At the same time, books addressing themes and issues of concern for LGBTQIA+ people continued to dominate the list."
The top 10 most challenged books of 2020 include:
1. George, by Alex Gino
Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”
2. 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
3. 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 anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”
4. 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 for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity
5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author
6. 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 anti-police views
7. 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
8. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students
9. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse
10. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message
The State of America's Libraries
The release of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books also coincided with the release of the ALA's annual State of America's Libraries Special Report, which this year focuses on the challenges libraries face from COVID-19.
"Like many public institutions forced to close their doors, libraries worked to adapt to a new way of doing business," an ALA release notes, pointing out that closures did not prevent library workers and libraries from serving their communities, and in fact spurred librarians to find new ways to serve patrons and students.
"As most libraries were closed to in-person visits, libraries accelerated or adopted policies that let users access resources from a safe social distance, including offering digital library cards, creating curbside pick-up programs, and promoting e-book lending, which surged 40 percent over 2019," ALA officials point out. Libraries also played a significant role in bridging a digital divide that became more apparent during the pandemic.
"Multiple studies cited in the report show that a significant sector of the U.S. population lacks access to computers and broadband as well as the digital literacy skills needed to navigate the internet and ethically use communication platforms like Zoom and social media. Many libraries left their wi-fi on even as their buildings closed," the report points out. Further, library staff in 2020 worked to "eradicate misinformation about Covid-19," much of which, the report notes, was "infused with xenophobia, with significant surge in bigotry against Asian people.
First sponsored in 1958, National Library Week is observed each April by the American Library Association and libraries across the nation, with celebrations including National Library Workers Day (April 6); National Library Outreach Day (April 7); and Take Action for Libraries Day (April 8).