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Annual 'Banned Books' list includes Steinbeck, bestsellers on racial justice

Annual 'Banned Books' list includes Steinbeck, bestsellers on racial justice


Challenges to books with LGBTQ themes continued during 2020, a year that libraries were often closed because of the pandemic.

But John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" also joined the annual "Banned Books" list (cited for racism) as did several books about social justice (accused of anti-police themes).

Banned books are usually more accurately called "challenged" books: Public libraries rarely remove them from their shelves.

The American Library Association releases the list every April during National Library Week. This year, it says "more than 273 books were challenged or banned. Demands to remove books addressing racism and racial justice or those that shared the stories of Black, Indigenous, or people of color grew in number. At the same time, books addressing themes and issues of concern for LGBTQIA+ people continued to dominate the list."

It also released a special report on how libraries handled the year of the pandemic: "Coronavirus opened a floodgate of misinformation. Library staff worked to eradicate misinformation about COVID-19, which was infused with xenophobia and especially Sinophobia, resulting in a surge of bigotry against Asian or Chinese people. Throughout 2020, librarians responded to misinformation about vaccines, the census, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the 2020 Presidential Election."

Libraries reported that attempts to remove libraries materials continued during the pandemic, even though many schools and libraries were closed or primarily had online services. 

Below are the top 10 most challenged books of 2020:

1. "George," by Alex Gino

Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”

2. "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You," by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds

Banned and challenged because of the author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people

3. "All American Boys," by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”

4. "Speak," by Laurie Halse Anderson

Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint, it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity

5. "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," by Sherman Alexie

Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author

6. "Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice," by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin

Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views

7. "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee

Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience

8. "Of Mice and Men," by John Steinbeck

Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students

9. "The Bluest Eye," by Toni Morrison

Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse

10. "The Hate U Give," by Angie Thomas

Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message

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