Books written by and about LGBTQ+ persons, as well as titles connected to Black culture and history, are being targeted by school districts and conservative lawmakers across the nation. Although censorship violates the right to freedom of speech, at least 10 states in the United States have adopted book banning as a way of suppressing ideas and information. Book banning is a form of censorship used by private individuals, government officials, or organizations to remove books from libraries, school reading lists, or bookstore shelves because they have objections to their content. In other words, a form of censorship that is being used to silence authors’ voices.
Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic about reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears.
This book is a great resource for those who identify as nonbinary or asexual, as well as for those who know someone who identifies that way and wishes to understand better.
Challenge: The American Library Association ranked it as the most challenged book in 2021. Henry McMaster, the Republican governor of South Carolina, called for an investigation into “obscene and pornographic” material, naming Gender Queer as the prime example of what shouldn’t be in the state’s schools.
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon over Mississippi, she can’t really sing. Instead, she’s the set designer for the drama department’s stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!
Challenged: The fact that the main character’s best friend happens to be gay was enough to make this story one of the most banned books in the US.
The Breakaways by Cathy G. Johnson
Johnson’s honest graphic novel follows a sensitive and timid Faith as she’s ready to embark on the scariest journey of all: middle school. To her surprise, Amanda, a popular eighth grader, convinces her to join the school soccer team, the Bloodhounds. Having never played soccer in her life, Faith ends up on the C team, a ragtag group that’s way better at drama than teamwork. Although they are awful at soccer, Faith and her teammates soon form a bond both on and off the soccer field that challenges their notions of loyalty, identity, friendship, and unity.
This beautiful story looks into the lives of a diverse and defiantly independent group of kids learning to make room for themselves in the world.
Challenged: The Breakaways was banned in Spring Branch (Houston) ISD’s elementary school libraries after a parent complained that it included a transgender character.
Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack
Once upon a time, in a kingdom far from here, there was a prince in line to take the throne, so his parents set out to find him a kind and worthy bride. The three of them traveled the land far and wide, but the prince didn’t quite find what he was looking for in the princesses they met. While they were away, a terrible dragon threatened their land, and all the soldiers fled. The prince rushed back to save his kingdom from the perilous beast and was met by a brave knight in a suit of brightly shining armor. Together they fought the dragon and discovered that special something the prince had been looking for all along.
In this modern fairy tale, a noble prince and a brave knight come together to defeat a terrible monster and, in the process, find true love in a most unexpected place.
Challenged: The Upshur County Public Library in West Virginia removed Prince & Knight from its shelves after Josh Layfield, a pastor, met with library officials to discuss the school’s morals.
Flamer by Mike Curato
It’s the summer between middle school and high school, and Aiden Navarro is away at camp. After having spent the past year at a Catholic school, constantly bullied for being overweight, queer, and biracial, Aiden is excited for the escape that Boy Scout camp provides. But this year seems different. The other boys are rapidly going through puberty and spend most of their time trying to prove to each other who is more manly. And, of course, that includes the plentiful use of homophobic slurs. Although Aiden attempts to be like these boys, his inability to fit in leaves him especially frustrated and upset.
Aiden has to simultaneously battle internalized homophobia and his romantic feelings for another camper, Elias, in this semi-autobiographical novel about accepting your own queerness.
Challenged: This book has been challenged over 62 times, and has been banned by U.S. schools because of LGBTQ+ content that is claimed to be sexually explicit.
10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert
Every night, Bailey dreams about magical dresses: dresses made of crystals and rainbows, dresses made of flowers, dresses made of windows. . . . Unfortunately, when Bailey’s awake, no one wants to hear about these beautiful dreams. Quite the contrary. “You’re a BOY!” Mother and Father tell her. “You shouldn’t be thinking about dresses at all.” Then Bailey meets Laurel, an older girl who is touched and inspired by Bailey’s imagination and courage. In friendship, the two of them begin making dresses together. And Bailey’s dreams come true!
This gorgeous picture book—a modern fairy tale about becoming the person you feel you are inside—will delight people of all ages. It is also a 2010 Stonewall Honor Book in Children and Young Adult Literature.
Challenged: In Cuero, Texas, the picture book was banned by the Cuero Independent School District from John C. French Elementary School for its “politically, racially, or socially offensive” material.
This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson
This candid, funny, and uncensored exploration of sexuality and what it’s like to grow up LGBTQ also includes real stories from people across the gender and sexual spectrum, not to mention hilarious illustrations. Inside this revised and updated edition, you’ll find the answers to all the questions you ever wanted to ask, with topics like stereotypes―the facts and fiction, coming out as LGBT, where to meet people like you, how to flirt, and so much more!
This book is meant to entertain but also inform. But most importantly, this book teaches you that however you identify (or don’t) and whomever you love, you are exceptional. You matter. And so does this book.
Challenged: Dawson’s book has been banned because people have claimed it to be too sexually explicit for schools. But more importantly, its purpose of providing sexual education for those in need has been deemed inappropriate for reading in schools.
This Pride Month, protest against these books being banned for LGBT themes and “offensive” material.
For more information and resources about the recent book bans, click here!