10 most challenged books feature anti-racism, LGBTQ themes

Attempts to ban books continued during the pandemic even though many libraries and schools closed
By: | April 6, 2021

Libraries saw growing demands in 2020 to remove books addressing racism and titles that shared the stories of Black, Indigenous or people of color.

In 2020, more than 27o books faced censorship attempts, according to the American Library Association’s “State of America’s Libraries Special Report: COVID-19.”

Books featuring LGBTQIA+ themes continued to dominate the association’s list of the 10 most challenged books of the year.

Attempts to ban books continued during the pandemic even though many libraries and schools closed or moved online, the association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom noted.


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Librarians, despite the closures, also help counter misinformation around COVID-19, vaccines, the census, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the 2020 Presidential Election, the report said.

Here are the 10 most challenged books of 2020, and the reasons why:

1. “George,” by Alex Gino

Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”

2. “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You,” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds

Who initiates book challenges?

  • Parents: 50%
  • Patrons: 20%
  • Board/administration: 11%
  • Political/religious groups: 9%
  • Librarians/teachers: 5%
  • Elected officials: 4%
  • Students: 1%

Banned and challenged because of the author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people
3. “All American Boys,” by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”

4. “Speak,” by Laurie Halse Anderson

Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint, it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity

5. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” by Sherman Alexie

Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author

6. “Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice,” by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin

Where do challenges take place?

  • Public libraries: 43%
  • Schools: 38%
  • School libraries: 15%
  • Academia: 2%

Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views

7. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee

Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience

8. “Of Mice and Men,” by John Steinbeck

Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students

9. “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison

Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse

10. “The Hate U Give,” by Angie Thomas

Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message