Books about LGBTQ and black people were among the most contested books in 2021

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.

2.”lawn boy“, by Jonathan Evison
3. Not all boys are blue“, by George M. Johnson
4. out of darkness“, by Ashley Hope Perez
5. The hate you give“, by Angie Thomas
8.”The bluest eye“, by Toni Morrison
9.”This book is gay“, by Juno Dawson
ten. Beyond the magenta“, by Susan Kuklin

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.

Last year, 729 challenges were issued for library, school and university materials and services. It is from 156 and 377 challenges reported to ALA in 2020 and 2019, respectively.
But a challenge doesn’t mean a book is pulled from library shelves or classrooms. It’s a “attempt to remove or restrict items, based on an individual or group’s objections” and often those efforts are unsuccessful, the ALA said.

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

Parents have shifted from challenging books that were primarily about racism and racial justice in 2020 to focusing more on books that are about gender identity and sexual orientation.
State lawmakers have proposed dozens of bills that restrict classroom readings across the country. Texas Governor Greg Abbott called on his state’s school boards to remove books he called “pornography.” Meanwhile, more school districts continue to remove books flagged as “inappropriate” from their library shelves.

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.

Three other books included in the 2021 list — “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” “Lawn Boy” and “The Bluest Eye” — were the subject of a lawsuit filed earlier this year by two Missouri college students.

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.

For George M. Johnson, the author of “Not All the Boys Are Blue,” the many challenges of their book and its inclusion on the ALA List show just how important their work is to students and teens.

“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.

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