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LGBTQ Books Most Challenged in Libraries

George cover

The American Library Association's annual report finds a rise in coordinated efforts against books with affirming LGBTQ themes and characters.

It's National Library Week 2020 (April 19-25), and the theme for this year's celebration had been "Find Your Place at the Library." While the American Library Association had to flip the script to "Find the Library at Your Place" following recent social distancing restrictions, there are still some communities where LGBTQ youth will have hard time finding affirming literature on the shelves of their local libraries.

That's because books with LGBTQ themes are the most challenged in public libraries, according to the ALA's "State of America's Libraries 2020." Eight of the top 10 most challenged had LGBTQ themes or characters, including the first six entries.

George by Alex Gino tops the list for the second year in a row. The story of a fourth-grade girl who had been assigned male at birth was first published in 2015 and made its entry at third on the list the following year. The only books challenged for other reasons were The Handmaid's Tale (profanity, vulgar/sexual overtones) by Margaret Atwood, and the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (magic, witchcraft, nefarious activities).

According to the report, the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked "a rising number of coordinated, organized challenges to books, programs, speakers, and other library resources that address LGBTQIA+ issues and themes" and found that the most challenged books dealt with "issues of concern to those in the gay, lesbian, transgender, and queer communities, most notably books affirming transgender youth, like Alex Gino's George."

"A notable feature of these challenges is an effort to frame any material with LGBTQIA+ themes or characters as inherently pornographic or unsuitable for minors, even when the materials are intended for children and families and they are age and developmentally appropriate," the report found. "For example, a pastor in Upshur, West Virginia, challenged the children's picture book Prince & Knight, claiming that the fractured fairy tale 'is a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children, especially boys, into the LGBTQA lifestyle.' Similarly, an organized group in Loudoun County, Virginia, protested the addition of diverse children's and young adult books addressing LGBTQIA+ themes and characters to classroom libraries, claiming that the books advance a 'political agenda' endorsed by the LGBTQIA+ community."

Listed below are the ALA's Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2019.

  1. George by Alex Gino
    Reasons: challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not "put books in a child's hand that require discussion"; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and "traditional family structure"
  2. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, for "its effect on any young people who would read it," and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased
  3. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
    Reasons: Challenged and vandalized for LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is "designed to pollute the morals of its readers," and for not including a content warning
  4. Sex Is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
    Reasons: Challenged, banned, and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were "inappropriate"
  5. Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis
    Reasons: Challenged and restricted for featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being "a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children" with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint
  6. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    Reasons: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is "sensitive, controversial, and politically charged"
  7. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity and for "vulgarity and sexual overtones"
  8. Drama, written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    Reasons: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against "family values/morals"
  9. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
    Reasons: Banned and forbidden from discussion for referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use "nefarious means" to attain goals
  10. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole
    Reason: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content

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