As efforts to ban books in schools intensified across the United States last year, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom has been tracking targeted books in libraries, schools and universities. On Monday, the ALA released its list of the most contested titles.
The majority of the books were called inappropriate because some people considered them to be sexually explicit, containing sexually explicit images, or containing sexual references. Some books dealt with the LGBTQ experience, and one was challenged for allegedly promoting “an anti-police message,” the ALA said.
The organization has collected data on banned books since 1990, but has published the list since at least 2001. The lists are based on news articles and reports sent to ALA by libraries and schools.
ALA President Patricia Wong said last year that the organization had recorded the highest number of attempted book bans since her organization began compiling its list of most contested books.
While the ALA supports parents’ decisions about what their child reads and believes those choices should not be dictated by others, Wong said students’ access to books should not be restricted.
“Young people need access to a variety of books from which they can discover different perspectives. So despite this organized effort to ban books, libraries stand ready to do what we have always done: make knowledge and ideas available for people to be free to choose what to read,” Wong said in a statement.
Criticism shifted from racial justice to gender identity
The most contested book of 2021 was “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, which discusses the non-binary author’s journey with her own identity. Kobabe’s book has been banned or challenged in school libraries in at least a dozen states.
Kobabe previously told CNN that he wants people who call pornography “Gender Queer” to read the entire book.
“Read everything and judge for yourself, don’t just rely on one or two little clips you’ve seen on social media,” Kobabe said.
The students sued their school district in February over the decision to remove a total of eight books from school libraries. The district argued that the novels were banned because they deal with issues related to race, gender and sexual identity, according to the lawsuit.
“Banning my book won’t stop me from existing, my story from existing, or future generations of kids like me from existing,” Johnson said.
“What’s at stake when we ban these books are real lives who need to read their stories and characters like them so they too know they can exist and thrive in this world,” they added. .
The list, Johnson said, allows them to write even more stories.