April 10, 2019

Last year’s 11 most challenged books in schools and libraries


Today marks the beginning of the American Library Association’s (ALA) National Library Week.

The theme of this year’s festivities is “Libraries = Strong Communities,” a sentiment with which we whole heartedly agree. But we can’t take those communities for granted, and they’re under attack more often than you might realize during a walk through the stacks at your local branch.

To illustrate this point, the ALA publishes a yearly report of the most “challenged” books, defining a challenge as a “formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.” Some staples from lists past are Harry Potter (on account of sorcery) and To Kill a Mockingbird (for containing racial slurs, but also recently for its uncritical white savior narrative).

Topping this year’s list is George by Alex Gino, owing to it’s titular character being born male, but identifying as female. We wrote about one such challenge here.

The media darling of the list is John Oliver’s parody of the Pence family’s leporine romp A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, about which we’ve had much to say over the last year. That book was oft-challenged for its homosexual themes, as were about half of the books on this years list—a particularly tragic statistic considering the children potentially affected by these challenges are at the vulnerable age where positive representations of themselves in literature can lend a lot of stability to the awful process of growing up.

You can read about the ALA’s process here, and see the top 11 challenged books of 2018 below:

George by Alex Gino

Reasons: banned, challenged, and relocated because it was believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones, and for mentioning “dirty magazines,” describing male anatomy, “creating confusion,” and including a transgender character

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller

Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ content, and for political and religious viewpoints

Captain Underpants series written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey

Reasons: series was challenged because it was perceived as encouraging disruptive behavior, while Captain Underpants and the Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot was challenged for including a same-sex couple

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Reasons: banned and challenged because it was deemed “anti-cop,” and for profanity, drug use, and sexual references

Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

Reasons: banned and challenged for including LGBTQIA+ characters and themes

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Reasons: banned, challenged, and restricted for addressing teen suicide

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

Reasons: banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and certain illustrations

Skippyjon Jones series written and illustrated by Judy Schachner

Reason: challenged for depicting stereotypes of Mexican culture

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: banned and challenged for sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling, and underage drinking, and for its religious viewpoint

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman, illustrated by Kristyna Litten

Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

Reason: challenged and burned for including LGBTQIA+ content



Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.