Every year since 2001, the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), established in 1967 through the American Library Association (ALA), releases a list of the top ten most frequently challenged books in the United States. What does it mean to be a ‘challenged book?’ According to ALA’s website, “a challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.” The OIF states that their mission is to keep the public informed on the importance of intellectual freedom and the ills of censorship, which is “still a very serious problem.”
While the OIF attempts to be as comprehensive as possible, creating the ranking based on documented challenges, they estimate that “for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported.” A book being challenged does not always lead to it being banned or censored, but each school and library is at liberty to decide how to proceed with challenges. Book censorship limits access to books to everyone – not just those offended by the content. In the 21st Century, this is surely something we don’t want happening to our beloved books and devoted readers.
The top ten most challenged books of 2015 are both shocking and expected. Take a look:
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
The Holy Bible
Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
Habibi by Craig Thompson
Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).
For more information on how the ALA and OIF conduct its research and what reasons are most commonly stated for books being challenged, check out its website.