10 remarkable books that are under attack
Efforts to remove books from libraries or limit their availability to teens and young children have intensified amid culture wars over race, gender and sexuality.
Fights over critical race theory, transgender rights and other issues put public libraries on the front line, sparking efforts to remove books from mass consumption.
The American Library Association (ALA) reported a record number of “disputed” books in 2021, a designation it gives to books that have been the subject of attempted removals or have been restricted due to objections from a person or a group.
Here are 10 of the books that have been repeatedly attacked.
The Hatred You Give by Angie Thomas
Thomas’ first book, published in 2017, focuses on sixteen-year-old Starr Carter, after witnessing the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil, who was unarmed, at the hands of a police officer.
The book has been the subject of calls to be banned from school libraries because it contains profanity and violence. Parents and leaders have also complained that it promotes “an anti-police message” and the indoctrination of a social agenda.
The book was on the ALA’s list of the ten most disputed books of 2017, 2018 and 2020.
The effort has also sparked a backlash from the book’s supporters who argue that it’s important for children and teens to be able to read its topics.
Vera Eidelman, staff attorney for the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said in a statement to The Hill that preventing young people from accessing these books limits their First Amendment rights.
“Young people have the right to access First Amendment information and ideas, including on their school library shelves,” Eidelman said. “Libraries exist to give us access to the full breadth of human knowledge, to allow us to explore a variety of genres and perspectives, and to learn to think for ourselves. The government cannot restrict this right simply because it does not like the opinions or perspectives expressed in certain books.
Maus by Art Spiegelman
Maus is a critically acclaimed graphic novel depicting the experiences of Spiegelman’s parents during the Holocaust. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992.
First published in 1980, the book portrays Jews as mice and Nazis as cats while exploring Spiegelman’s mother’s experience in a concentration camp and her struggle with depression.
The book was recently removed from an eighth-grade English language arts curriculum in January by the McMinn County School Board in Tennessee because of its language and nudity.
Spiegelman said he was “baffled” by the decision, adding that he had met many young people who “learned things from my book.”
Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said the book’s removal was “the kind of censorship that really only serves to restrict education.”
“Everyone speaks out against the missed opportunity to learn more about the Holocaust from such a rich first-person experience or at least a family’s experience with the Holocaust,” he said. she declared. “And that’s the kind of censorship that really only serves to restrict education.”
She added that book censorship does “not protect children from the harsh realities of what is happening in the world”, noting that many of them are “actually living these harsh realities”.
Gender queer by Maia Kobabe
Maia Kobabe’s book was cited by the American Library Association as the most contested book of 2021 and has been banned in 30 districts, according to PEN America, a nonprofit organization that aims to defend and protect the freedom of ‘expression.
The 2019 illustrated memoir explores Kobabe’s life and journey through self-identity as a non-binary person.
There have been several attempts to ban the book in several Texas school districts, with some Texans calling for criminal prosecution of the book, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Caldwell-Stone said the book is aimed at mature audiences and “is of great interest to mature teenagers interested in the subject”.
Kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee
The 1960 classic, widely read in high schools across the country, is a coming-of-age novel about a young girl named Scout as she tries to come to terms with her father, Atticus, who is an attorney defending a man black man falsely accused of raping a white woman.
The book has been challenged many times over the years for its discussion of race, its use of the N-word and other profanity. according to ALA.
In 2020, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Of Mice and Men, received complaints from four Burbank Unified School District parents, three of whom were black, according to at the LA Times.
They challenged the books for alleged potential harm to the approximately 400 black students in the public school district.
He was last targeted in February when he received complaints from parents in the Columbia County School District in Georgia, which led to his review by the school board, according to WJBFa local ABC News affiliate.
New Kid and Class Act by Jerry Craft
These graphic novels, loosely based on author Jerry Craft’s childhood, tell the story of friends Jordan and Drew, college kids who enroll in a predominantly white private school.
Drew is depicted with darker skin, while Jordan has lighter skin. The novels primarily focus on Drew and Jordan and how they both deal with microaggressions and racial stereotypes from their classmates and teachers.
Last October, the Katy Independent School District near Houston, Texas pulled both books from shelves and postponed Craft’s virtual appearance with students after parents complained about the book teaching critical theory of race, according to Reuters.
Craft said he was shocked by the decision, saying his books had received “nothing but love”.
However, within a week the books were approved to be returned to the library shelves, and Craft was asked to return to school, which he said he agreed to.
“No parent has ever come forward to say my child was offended because even though Jordan is African American, that’s the child they relate to,” Craft told The Hill. “And so they don’t see it because it’s the black kid that makes me feel guilty.”
It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris
This 1994 book topped ALA’s 2005 list of the most disputed books.
The book aims to educate preteen children about puberty by exploring different definitions of sex and generally providing sex education. It includes color illustrations of the human body and sex acts.
However, it received complaints about its inclusion of homosexuality, nudity, abortion and “inappropriate for the age group”, according to the ALA.
Heather has two moms by Lesléa Newman
First published in 1989, this children’s book explores the life of a young girl who is the daughter of lesbian parents. She realizes her different family dynamic when she draws a picture of her family for a class assignment.
The ALA believes that the book has been targeted by 42 legislators and parents across the country.
The book, which has been a staple of LGBTQ+ representation for over 30 years, recently made headlines after leaders of a Pennsylvania school district called for the book to be removed from all elementary school libraries. for “reference to gender identity”. according to the ACLU.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates’ acclaimed book, written as a letter to his teenage son exploring what it’s like to be a black American, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and named one of TIME Magazine’s Top 10 best non-fiction books of the decade in 2019.
He has also been targeted multiple times because of how he views race.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 3979 in June, which states that schools cannot teach that “an individual should experience discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.”
Books by black authors that critically examine the country’s racial history are among the most targeted in the country given the furore over issues such as critical race theory.
“Challenges to books, especially books by non-white male authors, are occurring at the highest rates we have ever seen,” says Jonathan Friedmandirector of PEN America’s Free Expression and Education and lead author of its Banned Books Report.
When Wilma Rudolph Played Basketball by Mark Weakland
This 2016 children’s picture book depicts American Olympian Wilma Rudolph’s childhood experiences, such as battling polio and playing basketball. It also explores Rudolph’s experiences with racism as a child growing up in Tennessee in the 1940s.
The book is one of several targeted children’s biographical books that typically have explicit or prominent themes related to rights and activism, according to the PEN America report.
In Search of Alaska by John Green
First published in 2005, Green’s book, based on his time at the Indian Springs school, received critical acclaim and won the ALA’s 2006 Michael L. Printz Award for Best novel for young adults.
The book primarily focuses on Miles “Pudge” Halter High School and his high school life.
The book does 2016 ALA Top Ten List challenged the books for its inclusion of a sexually explicit scene which may lead a student to “sexual experimentation”. It continued to receive complaints over the years, some even banned it.
“It is disheartening to see Looking for Alaska on so many banned book lists as a new wave of challenges sweeps through American libraries and schools,” Green tweeted in February.