Every year, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom releases a list of the top ten most banned or challenged books of the year. They take surveys and reports from libraries, schools, and independent media; and even then, they reported that “82-97% of book challenges remain unreported and receive no media.”
That being said, of the 273 books the ALA saw mentioned as being challenged, these are those that were the most recurrent.
George by Alex Gino
George focuses on a young, born male, child who knows deep down she is a girl. When the class puts on Charlotte’s Web, George goes through challenges to try and audition for the role of Charlotte.
Despite being an overall hopeful story, this book was restricted, challenged, and banned for LBGTQIA+ content, religious standards, and not “reflecting the values of our community.”
2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
From Amazon, “The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.”
This novel has been banned or challenged because of public statements from both authors, a claim of limited storytelling that does not encompass the full picture, and because it “does not encompass racism against all people.”
3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kelly
This novel centers on a 16-year old boy who is mistakenly arrested, violently at that, for shoplifting at a bodega where he was just shopping. The story follows the victim, Rashad, as well as the adopted son of the cop, Quinn, as they must grow up quickly and learn to deal with the reality of police brutality.
All American Boys was banned for a myriad of reasons, including: drug use, alcoholism, anti-police views, and because the topic was “too sensitive” for the times.
4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Speak is a novel about a freshman in high school learning to be herself and grow in the face of trauma. It is a story of healing against all odds and learning to use your voice to stand up for yourself.
This classic novel was banned or challenged because it was said to be “anti-men” and for its inclusion of sexual assault.
5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
This National Book Award winning novel follows Junior, a boy who grows up on an Indian reservation, but transfers to a public school for high school. The school is almost all white, and the only other Indian is the school’s mascot.
This was banned for profanity, sexual references, and alleged misconduct by the author.
6. Something Happened in Our Town (A Child’s Story of Racial Injustice) by Marianne Celano
This children’s story follows two families, one white and one black, as they try to understand a police shooting in their town.
This important story was banned or challenged because of what was thought to be anti-police views. Are you sensing a common theme here yet?
7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
If you’re unfamiliar, To Kill a Mockingbird focuses on the Finch family: children Scout and Jem and their father, acclaimed lawyer, Atticus. Set in the Great Depression, the children are forced into a situation of watching racism unfold in the justice system as Atticus defends a black man for a crime it is clear he did not commit.
Though this book has been a staple in high school literature classes, it was still challenged for its racial slurs, the image of the “white savior,” and for a negative portrayal of the black experience.
8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Another classic, this novel follows two brothers, one neurodivergent, as they pursue their dreams of opening their own farm and ranch.
This book is yet another banned for racial slurs.
9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The first novel by the beloved (pun-intended) author Toni Morrison, this story follows Pecola, a young girl who wishes for blue eyes so that the world will see her differently.
Contrary to the other books in this list about racial issues, this book was actually banned for sexual abuse and misconduct.
10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This modern classic follows Starr, a young African American teen caught between two worlds: that of her home in the hood, and that of her primarily white private school. When one of Starr’s friends is killed in an incident of police brutality, Starr must face this divide head on and decide where her loyalties lie.
This book was, again, banned for anti-police messaging amongst profanity as well. Thomas described the ban as a “badge of honor.”
Did these bans serve purpose, or are they merely trying to stifle the harsher truths of a modern country riddled with injustice?
How do you feel about banning books? Let us know!