Banned Books Week 2020

The American Library Association opened Banned Books Week 2020 (Septembe 27-October 3) with the Office for Intellectual Freedom’s release of their list of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of the previous year.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 377 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2019. Of the 566 books that were targeted, here are the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2019, along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:

  1. George by Alex Gino
    Reasons: challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”
  2. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased
  3. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
    Reasons: Challenged and vandalized for LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning
  4. Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
    Reasons: Challenged, banned, and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate” 
  5. Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis
    Reasons: Challenged and restricted for featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint
  6. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    Reasons: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”
  7. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”
  8. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    Reasons: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals”
  9. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
    Reasons: Banned and forbidden from discussion for referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals
  10. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson illustrated by Henry Cole
    Reason: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content

The ALA says the difference between a challenge or banning is that a challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.  Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.

[Thanks to Contrarius for the story.]

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9 thoughts on “Banned Books Week 2020

  1. It amuses me how focused certain groups can be on sex limited to procreation, as though we were livestock.

  2. Apparently, a lot of people are not just obsessed with gay and trans people, but also with protecting children from stories about two gay penguins adopting a baby penguin or a king falling in love with a knight.

    As for The Handmaid’s Tale, how on Earth should that story be told without mentioning sex?

    And while I have zero issue with the existence of the Harry Potter novels and J.K. Rowling’s other books, “promotes witchdraft” is not the first or even seventh reason I would come up with for why they should be banned.

  3. @Cora
    “Contains actual curses and spells” is not why they’re problematic. There aren’t any of those in the books. The bible, on the other hand, has both. Plus sex and mass murder.

  4. It would be good if some details behind the specific incidents were available. All I ever see is top-level summaries, and lists of books that are targeted. From the loose standards of “banned” that are used (they actually are counting “challenges”, “documented requests to remove materials”), there’s no way to tell if a particular event was an involved parent saying to educators “I don’t think this book is appropriate for my kid”, or Tipper Gore and friends marching into a library and pulling copies of “To Kill a Mockingbird” off the shelves. There’s a spectrum of behavior that can be pulled into ALA “challenges”, and not all of it should be condemned.

  5. I am often startled when reminded that certain fundamentalist groups believe witchcraft is a real thing with actual (always evil) power. They believe this more strongly than followers of Wicca. They get this from two mistranslations of the Old Testament. The ancient Hebrews had no concept of witches like the 16th century English did.

  6. No Blood Heir or Somewhere Lies the Moon? For 2020, are we going to see Ember Days or American Dirt make the list? It looks to me very much that these are just books that were challenged by wrong-thinking evil right-wingers. It’s not about censorship, it’s about the woke left congratulating itself on how wonderful it is. Of course none of them would ever think of challenging books, would they? Maybe only the ones that deserve it?

    Instead of a quote from a Christian pastor not wanting to ban “everything” said about their faith, do you think the ALA would ever have an equivalent statement from a transwoman about not wanting to ban “everything” said about their gender?

  7. @World Weary

    You need to read your bible more thoroughly.
    In 28 Samuel, Saul consults a medium (colloquially known as the Witch of En-dor) who raises the ghost of the departed Samuel so that Saul can ask about the forthcoming war with the Philistines. (Samuel tells him it will go poorly and that he deserves it. He turns out to be right.)

    Not unlike some modern politicians, Saul had banned this practice before finding himself in need of it.

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