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Banned Books Week September 27- October 3, 2020

Normally there would be book displays and posters scattered through the library talking about "banned books," what that means and what the 10 most challenged books were in the previous year.  For obvious reasons that isn't quite possible this year, however, that doesn't mean pointing out censorship and attempts thereof on our right to read isn't still a crucial aspect of librarianship.

Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2019

*indicate books VGPL carries

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 377 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2019. Of the 566 books that were targeted, here are the most challenged, along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:

  1. George by Alex Gino
    Reasons: challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”

  2. *Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased

  3. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
    Reasons: Challenged and vandalized for LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning

  4. Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
    Reasons: Challenged, banned, and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate” 

  5. *Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis
    Reasons: Challenged and restricted for featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint

  6. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    Reasons: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”

  7. *The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”

  8. Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    Reasons: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals”
    (This would probably top VGPL's "10 Most Stolen" which is why we don't currently own it)

  9. *Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
    Reasons: Banned and forbidden from discussion for referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals

  10. *And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson illustrated by Henry Cole
    Reason: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content

More Information

ALA Banned Books Site

The term Banned is actually a misnomer. Books in the sense we speak of them during Banned Books Week have more properly been challenged and removed from some schools or libraries.


This isn't like in Nazi Germany or under other authoritarian regimes where books by religions or cultures or on topics that make governments uncomfortable are prohibited on a national level. Almost no books are actually banned in that sense in the US, which is one of the reason librarians and the ALA have the ability to support awareness of challenges to books, where despite polices or owing to a lack thereof, books are pulled from circulation largely because a voices have spoken up against them. Not against being forced to read them, but against their being available for anyone to read.

Find Your Freedom to Read
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