The American Library Association kicked off National Library Week today with the release of its State of America's Libraries 2022 report, which includes its annual top 10 list of most challenged books.
In a release, ALA officials said library staff in every state faced "an unprecedented number of attempts to ban books" in 2021, with ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracking 729 challenges to library, school and university materials, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals. Most targeted books were by or about Black or LGBTQIA+ people.
By comparison, in 2020, some 273 books were challenged or banned, according to ALA, a significant drop 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 due to the pandemic.
“The 729 challenges tracked by ALA represent the highest number of attempted book bans since we began compiling these lists 20 years ago,” said ALA president Patty Wong. “We support individual parents' choices concerning their child's reading and believe that parents should not have those choices dictated by others. Young people need to have access to a variety of books from which they can learn about different perspectives. So, despite this organized effort to ban books, libraries remain ready to do what we always have: make knowledge and ideas available so people are free to choose what to read.”
ALA's Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2021:
- Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to have sexually explicit images.
- Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, for LGBTQIA+ content, profanity, and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
- Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez, for depictions of abuse and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, for profanity, violence, and because it was thought to promote an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, for profanity, sexual references and use of a derogatory term.
- Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews, considered sexually explicit and degrading to women.
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit.
- This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson, for providing sexual education and LGBTQIA+ content.
- Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin, for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
The list comes as a recent poll commissioned by ALA showed majorities of voters across party lines oppose pulling books from library shelves, with some 74% of parents of public-school children expressing "a high degree of confidence in school librarians to make good decisions about which books to make available to children."
Meanwhile, in response to the uptick in book challenges nationwide ALA said it will launch Unite Against Book Bans, billed as a national initiative "focused on empowering readers everywhere to stand together in the fight against censorship."