Library group reports record number of ‘challenged’ books

Stack of books, blurry background

Parents and political groups lodged complaints against nearly 1,600 books in more than 700 libraries and library systems across the country in 2021, a new record of conservative activism that largely targeted tomes involving race, gender and the LGBTQ community, a new report has found.

The American Library Association (ALA) said in its annual assessment that twice as many “challenges” to books were made over the course of one three-month period — from September to November of last year — than in the entirety of 2020. The 330 challenges in that period compared to 377 made in all of 2019.

“Gender Queer,” a graphic memoir of author Maia Kobabe’s life as a nonbinary queer person, was challenged more often than any other book, according to the group’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. Five of the 10 most frequently challenged books are about the LGBTQ community, the association found.

Also among the books most likely to be attacked are novels that contain sexually explicit references or content, including “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie and Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.”

“We support individual parents’ choices concerning their child’s reading and believe that parents should not have those choices dictated by others,” said Patricia Wong, the ALA’s president. “Young people need to have access to a variety of books from which they can learn about different perspectives. So, despite this organized efforts to ban books, libraries remain ready to do what we always have: make knowledge and ideas available so people are free to choose what to read.”

The new push to ban certain books also came as conservatives focused campaigns against critical race theory, a legal theory taught in some law school and graduate school settings. Conservatives in states like Idaho, Iowa, Arkansas, Tennessee and Florida have approved legislation banning teaching of some concepts of race in schools, bans that are so broad that some teachers have warned they risk running afoul of the new laws if they teach about the Holocaust.

In Wyoming, a group of parents filed a criminal complaint against public library officials over sex education books. In Texas, a state lawmaker proposed a list of 849 banned books.

The true number of banned and challenged books is likely much higher than the library association could document. The group said its list relies on media reports and self-reporting by library systems across the country, and that as much as 90 percent of challenges to books go unreported. 

4 thoughts on “Library group reports record number of ‘challenged’ books

    1. Hello Nan. I think what people don’t understand is it goes beyond sex. Sex is something to scare people and their minds go to the very worst they can think of so is left vague. This party wants to force sex / gender on your kids … and people imagine the worst such as nude kids playing with each other’s genitals. Several things are going on here that are not being seen by the public. This is an attack on public schools and teachers as well as an attack on the LGBTQ+ people. The right hates public schools and what they teach because the right cannot make it religious or exclusionary (remember that the majority of private schools sprang up after the SCOTUS forced integration), and now that they cannot enforce a right-wing indoctrination. The percentage of the population that wants this is small but very vocal and active also they are supported by Republicans to gain votes.

      Nan I wanted to address your comment on a level that I think makes most older people squeamish. Not all older people and it includes some middle age church raised people (I have a twitter thread Randy sent me to post on a gay kid threatened by his religious family to the point of worrying if he would be killed but I just have not felt in a safe place to deal with it. Been having bad nightmares recently)

      Sex. Republicans say that parents should teach their kids about it. How many parents working several jobs worrying about keeping housing and food have time to really deal with the issue? How many have that communication level with their kids? How many kids want to risk talking with their parents about their true feelings or stuff that they have done? There is the saying too close to the situation to see what is really there. I cannot use my childhood to address this but what about sexually abused kids like me? Many kids come forward when they are given the information in school at the younger grades about what is good touch or bad touch or abuse. That was never covered in my school years. Our sex education was in 6th grade (I was 12) when the teacher showed us a few slides and kept saying if you had sex you would have a baby. I spent a year or two worried I was going to get pregnant every time I was raped.

      I am concerned over what I have been reading. In Tenn the right / Republicans are pushing a bill that excludes same sex marriage but allows a child of any age to be married off to an adult. I posted about states that tried to end state marriage in favor of religious marriage that did the same thing. I am seeing that in a lot of states pushed by the right but seems to be pushed by religious groups such as project blitz. They want gay marriage gone but also they want the right to marry off minor girls to adult older men. I am seeing a lot of this. I have three sets of windows with stories I did not post the last few days.

      Nan I know my championing trans gender issues rubs you the wrong way. Separate sex from gender and you will see the issue more clearly. Gender roles are whatever society wants to make them and they have changed many times even over my lifetime. Sex can either what your genitalia are or an act. No one in the public other than activists for or against trans gender think of it any other way. Really how many in the public look at people and wonder if they are XX / XXX / XY / XXY/ XYY or any of the many things in between? People run on what they see. That is a pretty woman or an ugly one and that one is maybe a man made up like a woman? I have known pretty boys who have been mistaken for girls who got really upset, but that is how people judge other sex / gender. It is wrong from a science point. But it seems it will take time for some of the public to adjust to it as they did with gay people. That took time and people getting to know gay people as normal and just like them, and it will take the same with trans gender people.

      But what the right is trying to do right now with their don’t say gay bills is to make getting to that acceptance in the public and to young ages before bigotry is ingrained impossible. It is an attempt to stop what is happening right now, that younger people are accepting of their LGBTQ+ classmates.


      1. Thanks for this, Scottie. You have made some good points that I can agree with, but there are others that we don’t see eye-to-eye on … and probably never will. In any case, I respect you for your stance and hope you will do the same for me.

        P.S. Even though “gender” has become a hot issue, I used “sex” in my comment more as a catch-all.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hello Nan. I understand and agree with you on what word to use. When it comes to the words sex and gender the terminology is changing and misunderstood in ways that make writing about it difficult. Is it same sex marriage or is it same gender marriage? I think to most people those sentences mean the same, but in the context of the emerging understanding of trans issues are they? Because the right wants to combine gender to what your genitals look like at birth, and the fact that gender is a societal concept internal to how a person feels it is hard for me to find the right combination of which words to use. I like the way one young trans girl said about laws preventing puberty blockers. “The idea that I will have to live my life with my outside not matching my inside who I am is something I cannot live with”. Her outsides not matching her insides. I think that is a great way to understand it. For me at least.

          Liked by 1 person

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