A record number of books faced official censorship attempts last year, with familiar LGBTQ titles crowding the new annual banned book list. "Gender Queer," "All Boys Aren't Blue" and "The Bluest Eye" lead the top 10, according to the American Library Association.
Actually, the list includes 13 this year as the ALA counted several books as tied for having the most challenges.
"In 2022, ALA tracked the highest number of censorship reports since the association began compiling data about library censorship more than 20 years ago," the group said in a news release. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 2,571 unique titles targeted for censorship, a 38% increase from the 1,858 unique titles targeted in 2021, it said. Most of the targeted books were written by or about members of the LGBTQ community and people of color.
The ALA counts reported challenges to libraries and schools, which may differ some from removals dictated by state legislatures or from counts by the PEN organization. The ALA defines a challenge as a “formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.” A complaint to a library, or a report in the media, does not necessarily mean the book was removed permanently from shelves.
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Because many book challenges are not reported to the ALA or covered by the press, the data represents only "a snapshot of book censorship" throughout the year, the ALA says.
Last year, the ALA formed the new Unite Against Book Bans effort. This week is National Library Week and the ALA declared April 24 "Right to Read Day."
The ALA reported the majority of complaints in 2022 — nearly 60% — come from parents and library patrons, the Associated Press said. “Political/religious” groups such as the conservative Moms for Liberty account for just 17% of complaints, but they object to a disproportionate number of books, according to Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. Moms for Liberty, which advocates for parental rights in schools, objected to more than 1,000 books in 2022, the AP says.
Caldwell-Stone said the web site booklooks.org, a popular resource for conservatives to evaluate books that defines itself as “unaffiliated” with Moms for Liberty, but does “communicate with other individuals and groups with whom there is an intersection of mission and values.”
Here are the ALA's most challenged books of 2022:
1. “Gender Queer,” by Maia Kobabe. Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
2. “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” by George M. Johnson. Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
3. “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison. Reasons: depiction of sexual abuse, claimed to be sexually explicit, EDI content
4. “Flamer,” by Mike Curato. Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
5. (TIE) “Looking for Alaska,” by John Green. Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content
5. (TIE) “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky. Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content, depiction of sexual abuse, drugs, profanity
7. “Lawn Boy,” by Jonathan Evison. Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
8. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie. Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, profanity
9. “Out of Darkness,” by Ashley Hope Perez. Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit
10. (TIE) “A Court of Mist and Fury,” by Sarah J. Maas. Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit
10. (TIE) “Crank,” by Ellen Hopkins. Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, drugs
10. (TIE) “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” by Jesse Andrews. Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, profanity
10. (TIE) “This Book is Gay,” by Juno Dawson. Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, sex education, claimed to be sexually explicit
A proposed funding cut is just one part of a strategy to use libraries as pawns in the battle over LGBTQ rights.
At stake is $4.5 million for 160 library districts across the state.
The proposal is modeled after a Florida education law derided by opponents as a “Don’t Say Gay” law.