Ban The Books: Censorship Demands Reach Record Numbers, The American Library Association Reports

There were 1269 calls for censorship of library books last year, nearly double what it was in 2021. Of the 2571 texts that were targeted, a record number belong to the queer and POC categories, revealing an alarming new and growing trend. 

A report released by the American Library Association (ALA) reveals a 38% increase in the books being targeted by calls for bans and censorship. Alarming as that is, what is even more concerning is that a massive number of the titles being targeted have been written by or are about or targeted to appeal to persons of color, and/or the LGBTQIA+ community.

Book Challenges

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom, had this to say, “A book challenge is a demand to remove a book from a library's collection so that no one else can read it. Overwhelmingly, we're seeing these challenges come from organized censorship groups that target local library board meetings to demand removal of a long list of books they share on social media.” 

“Their aim is to suppress the voices of those traditionally excluded from our nation's conversations, such as people in the LGBTQIA+ community or people of color,” she adds.

“Each attempt to ban a book by one of these groups represents a direct attack on every person's constitutionally protected right to freely choose what books to read and what ideas to explore. The choice of what to read must be left to the reader or, in the case of children, to parents. That choice does not belong to self-appointed book police.”

Illinois Library Systems Act

Thankfully, there may be cause for hope. Illinois became the first of hopefully many states to ban these attempts at book censorship. House Bill 2789 amended the Illinois Library Systems Act, “…to encourage and protect the freedom of public libraries and library systems to acquire materials without external limitation and to be protected against attempts to ban, remove, or otherwise restrict access to books or other materials.”

Most Challenged Books 

And on that happy note, here's a list of 6 of the books most challenged last year and why you should be reading them:

  1. Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe: Maia Kobabe's Gender Queer is an artfully told graphic memoir. It tells the story of Kobabe's journey to coming out as nonbinary. It is a book of self-discovery and exploration, a coming-of-age tale for those who feel they do not fit into boxes handed to them by society.
  2. All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson: This is a memoir and a manifesto by activist and journalist George M. Johnson. The book is a collection of personal, often intimate essays that tells the story of Johnson as he grows up and finds his way through the world as a queer and black man.
  3. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: Published in 1970, The Bluest Eye tells the story of Pecola — a young black girl growing up in America during the Great Depression. To fit into a society whose beauty standards focus on whiteness, Pecola dreams of having blue eyes. The story explores her journey and seemingly odd yet understandable obsession. It ends up being an exploration of how blackness has been demonized in the country for the longest time.
  4. Flamer by Mike Curato: A semi-autobiographical tale, this graphic novel tells the story of a young boy stuck in a Boy Scouts camp with his bullies in 1995. His peers bully Aiden for his “gay” mannerisms. Aiden struggles with self-hatred and tries to deal with his hyphenated identities, feeling alienated from his peers as a young gay Catholic boy and Boy Scout.
  5. Looking for Alaska by John Green: Published in 2007, Looking for Alaska is an exploration of young love, grief, and mental health issues that often plague young adults as they come to terms with their newfound identities. It reminds the reader that everyone struggles with something or the other, and what appears perfect may be far from it. 
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a novel for young adults written in the form of letters to an unseen, perhaps even imaginary, friend. It is a coming-of-age story but also a tale of friendship and love. Raw in its recounting of the protagonist's mental health struggles, The Perks of Being a Wallflower touches upon sensitive issues like mental and physical abuse. Ultimately, it is a bitter yet bright story of accepting yourself for who you are and finding your place among those who remind you that you are irreplaceable, indomitable, and brilliant even in your weirdness. 

This article was written and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Ananyaa Bhowmik is a neurodivergent and queer pop-culture journalist with the Wealth of Geeks. She has previously worked with brands like Sterling Holidays, Myntra, Bajaj, and the Loud Interactive. She is an independent scholar, cat parent, and performance poet. Her areas of research and interest focus on and around digital marketing, Canadian indigenous history, queerness in media, and pop-culture and fandom studies.