BOOK BAG

The top 10 books Americans tried to ban last year

Censorship is on the rise in the US, suspects James LaRue, director of the US Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF).

Every year, the OIF, a part of the American Library Association, tracks when parents and administrators “challenge” books by trying to remove them from schools curricula and libraries. This year, it recorded 323 attempts to ban books—about 50 more than last year—including books with young transgender characters and a series by actor and comedian Bill Cosby. LaRue says that this year a higher proportion of books actually went through as banned than in other years.

Because the OIF’s database of attempted bans is based on self-reporting, LaRue notes that the true number of challenges in the US is likely much higher. He estimates that self-reporting captures only up to 18% of total challenges in the US.

Here are the ten books Americans tried most frequently to ban in 2016:

1) This One Summer (2014), by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki (Macmillan)

this one summer
(Courtesy Macmillan)

Synopsis: A graphic novel about two friends who spend the summer together on the verge of adolescence.

Reasons for challenge: LGBT characters, drug use, profanity, sexually explicit

The Caldecott-honored book was taken off library shelves at the public school in Henning, Minnesota, which serves kindergarten through 12th grade. “I deemed it as being vulgar. There was a lot of inappropriate language,” the superintendent told The Daily Globe.

2) Drama (2012), by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic)

9780545326995_xlg
(Courtesy Scholastic)

Synopsis: A graphic novel about a middle school theater stage crew and their relationship ups-and-downs.

Reasons for challenge: LGBT characters, sexually explicit, “offensive political viewpoint”

The book was also a top challenged book in 2015.

3) George (2015), by Alex Gino (Scholastic)

(Courtesy Scholastic)

Synopsis: A book about a 10-year-old transgender girl desperate to play Charlotte in the school’s production of Charlotte’s Web.

Reasons for challenge: LGBT characters, portrayal of transgender child

According to the OIF, the book was successfully removed for “‘sexuality’ not appropriate at elementary levels.”

4) I Am Jazz (2014), by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas (Dial Books)

(Courtesy Penguin Random House)

Synopsis: A picture book about a transgender girl named Jazz who loves pink.

Reasons for challenge: LGBT characters, portrayal of transgender child

The children’s book was also a top challenged title in 2015. That year a school in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin canceled a reading of the book meant to support a transitioning six-year-old student, after a religious group expressed outrage.

5) Two Boys Kissing (2013), by David Levithan (Borzoi)

9780307931917
(Courtesy Penguin Random House)

Synopsis: A novel for young adults about two teenaged boys who are in a 32-hour kissing marathon.

Reasons for challenge: LGBT characters, sexually explicit

The long-listed title for the National Book Award was a top challenged book last year. This year it was challenged for being on display with boys kissing on the cover.

6) Looking for Alaska (2005), by John Green (Dutton/Penguin)

9780142402511
(Courtesy Penguin Random House)

Synopsis: A book about a teenaged boy who changes schools and falls in love.

Reason for challenge: sexually explicit

The book, also on last year’s list, was challenged for one particular scene “that may lead a student to ‘sexual experimentation.'”

7) Big Hard Sex Criminals (2015), by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Chip Zdarsky (Image Comics)

(Courtesy Image Comics)

Synopsis: A woman who stops time when she has sex tries to rob a bank with a man with the same power.

Reason for challenge: sexually explicit

The book was challenged and successfully banned, according to the OIF.

8) Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread (2015), by Chuck Palahniuk (Anchor)

make something up
(Courtesy Penguin Random House)

Synopsis: A collection of short stories by the author of Fight Club.

Reasons for challenge: profanity, sexually explicit

The book was challenged for being “disgusting and all around offensive.”

9) Little Bill series (1990s), by Bill Cosby, illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood (Simon Spotlight)

(Courtesy Scholastic)

Synopsis: A series of books aimed at 4 to 8-year-olds about the life of a young Bill.

Reasons for challenge: allegations of rape against the author

High-profile allegations of rape and sexual assault against comedian and actor Bill Cosby have caused controversy over his books for young readers. “To my knowledge this is first time a book was challenged not because of what it was about but because of who wrote it,” says LaRue.

10) Eleanor & Park (2013), by Rainbow Rowell (Saint Martins)

eleanor park
(Courtesy Rainbow Rowell)

Synopsis: A novel about two misfits in love in the 1980s.

Reason for challenge: profanity

Parents in Chesterfield County Public Schools in Virginia wanted books on a summer reading list, include Eleanor & Park, removed or labeled with warnings. In 2013 parents in Minnesota also tried to have the “profane” book removed from libraries.

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