GREENVILLE, N.C. (NEXSTAR) – It’s National Library Week and the American Library Association has dropped its list of the books that face the most backlash.
The Sheppard Memorial Library Director, Greg Needham, commented on banning books, “Banned books? Not really a fan. I think it’s possible to have a balanced collection and to do it in a way that makes it pleasant and positive for everyone to use. Read what you like, don’t read what you don’t like.”
Attempts to ban books in libraries and schools have reached a 20-year high, the American Library Association said. On Monday, the group announced it had documented 1,269 demands to censor more than 2,500 titles in 2022.
That’s the highest number recorded since the ALA, which advocates for expanding libraries, literacy and intellectual freedom, started keeping track in 2001.
The two titles most frequently targeted for censorship are newer releases: “All Boys Aren’t Blue” and “Gender Queer.” The rationale given by those seeking to remove them from libraries or schools, according to the ALA, was they contain “LGBTQIA+ content,” which people “claimed to be sexually explicit.”
Many of the books on the 2022 list contain LGBTQ+ characters – part of a growing conservative effort to keep children from reading, talking or otherwise engaging with such issues. Florida legislators, for example, recently expanded what critics call “Don’t Say Gay” laws, banning classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades. The state is also considering changing laws on bathroom use and drag shows.
While a recurring theme, discussion of LGBTQ+ characters or issues weren’t the only reasons for challenging a book. A notable classic, Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” was third on the list of most frequent targets. The 1970 novel was singled out for its depictions of sexual abuse, the ALA said.
Other books were targeted for profanity and descriptions of drug use (“Crank” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”).
The 13 most challenged titles in 2022, according to the ALA, were:
- “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe
- “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson
- “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison
- “Flamer” by Mike Curato
- “Looking for Alaska” by John Green
- “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky
- “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison
- “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie
- “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez
- “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas
- “Crank” by Ellen Hopkins
- “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews
- “This Book Is Gay” by Juno Dawson
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 similar report released last week by PEN America listed many of the same titles as frequent targets for censorship. PEN America’s top-five list also cited “Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins, as well as a graphic novel version of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
In charts accompanying Monday’s announcement, the ALA reported the majority of complaints — nearly 60% — come from parents and library patrons. “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 Caldwell-Stone. Moms for Liberty, which advocates for parental rights in schools, objected to more than 1,000 books in 2022.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.