This week the American Library Association released its annual list of the most challenged books of the year for 2020.
“To Kill a Mockingbird,” also made a repeat appearance, but this time the objections were different. In 2017, Harper Lee’s classic novel was challenged “because of violence and its use of the N-word.” In 2020, racial slurs were also cited along with the grievance that the book included “a ‘white savior’ character,” and because of “its perception of the Black experience.”
The “Harry Potter” books, which appeared in 2019 (for the fourth time since 2001) because of complaints about its glorification of magic and its use of violence, among other reasons, did not make the 2020 list. Past lists have focused heavily on books that dealt with gender issues and made sexual references; this year there are more books about race, including the bestseller, “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You,” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
The list, compiled “to inform the public about censorship in libraries and schools,” according to the ALA’s news release, is based on “information from media stories and voluntary reports,” and is only “a snapshot of book challenges.” The association noted that “surveys indicate that 82-97% of book challenges – documented requests to remove materials from schools or libraries – remain unreported.”
Here is the ALA’s list of the most challenged books of 2020, along with the reasons cited:
1. “George,” by Alex Gino
Reasons: 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
Reasons: Banned and challenged because of 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
Reasons: 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
Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and 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
Reasons: 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
Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views.
7. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee
Reasons: 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
Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students.
9. “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse.
10. “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas
Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message.
Nora Krug is an editor and writer in Book World.
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