This year's celebration will take place September 18 – 24 with the theme, “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.”
We encourage everyone to Read Banned Books, this week and all weeks. To help you get started, here is a list of the top ten most-challenged books of 2021 as compiled by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom:
Gender Queer: A Memoir
By Maia Kobabe
Banned, challenged, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to have sexually explicit images.
In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears.
Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity—what it means and how to think about it—for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.
By Jonathan Evison
Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
For Mike Muñoz, life has been a whole lot of waiting for something to happen. Not too many years out of high school and still doing menial work--and just fired from his latest gig as a lawn boy on a landscaping crew--he’s smart enough to know that he’s got to be the one to shake things up if he’s ever going to change his life. But how? He’s not qualified for much of anything. He has no particular talents, although he is stellar at handling a lawn mower and wielding clipping shears. But now that career seems to be behind him. So what’s next for Mike Muñoz?
In this funny, biting, touching, and ultimately inspiring novel, bestselling author Jonathan Evison takes the reader into the heart and mind of a young man determined to achieve the American dream of happiness and prosperity--who just so happens to find himself along the way.
All Boys Aren’t Blue
By George M. Johnson
Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and profanity and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to going to flea markets with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.
Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren't Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson's emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.
Out of Darkness
By Ashley Hope Perez
Banned, challenged, and restricted for depictions of abuse and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
"This is East Texas, and there's lines. Lines you cross, lines you don't cross. That clear?" New London, TX. 1937. Naomi Vargas is Mexican American. Wash Fuller is Black. These teens know the town's divisive racism better than anyone. But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive.
Naomi and Wash dare to defy the rules, and the New London school explosion serves as a ticking time bomb in the background. Can their love survive both prejudice and tragedy?
Race, romance, and family converge in this riveting novel that transplants Romeo and Juliet to a bitterly segregated Texas town. Includes a fascinating author's note detailing the process of research and writing about voices that have largely been excluded from historical accounts.
The Hate U Give
By Angie Thomas
Banned and challenged for profanity and violence and because it was thought to promote an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda
The Hate U Give is a groundbreaking, thought-provoking debut novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, about a teen girl who is the only witness to her friend’s fatal shooting by a police officer.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor black neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.
A. C. Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
By Sherman Alexie
Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and use of a derogatory term.
Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
By Jesse Andrews
Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and degrading to women.
This is the funniest book you’ll ever read about death.
It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. But on the first day of his senior year, Greg Gaines thinks he’s figured it out. The answer to the basic existential question: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad? His strategy: remain at the periphery at all times. Keep an insanely low profile. Make mediocre films with the one person who is even sort of his friend, Earl.
This plan works for exactly eight hours. Then Greg’s mom forces him to become friends with a girl who has cancer. This brings about the destruction of Greg’s entire life.
Fiercely funny, honest, heart-breaking—this is an unforgettable novel from a bright talent, now also a film that critics are calling "a touchstone for its generation" and "an instant classic."
The Bluest Eye
By Toni Morrison
Banned and challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit.
From the acclaimed Nobel Prize winner—a powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity that asks questions about race, class, and gender with characteristic subtly and grace.
In Morrison’s acclaimed first novel, Pecola Breedlove—an 11-year-old Black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others—prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment.
This Book is Gay
By Juno Dawson
Banned challenged, relocated, and restricted for providing sex education and LGBTQIA+ content.
Gay, straight, bisexual, transgender, whatever—with laugh-out-loud wit and wisdom, Juno Dawson smashes the myths and prejudice surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity.
Filled with stories from real teens about their own experiences, no-nonsense educational information, and hilarious illustrations, this book offers a fun, enlightening introduction to the full spectrum of sexual identity. The perfect blend of informative and supportive, this is the ultimate handbook for those questioning their identity or just looking to learn more about sexuality.
By Susan Kuklin
Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
A groundbreaking work of LGBT literature takes an honest look at the life, love, and struggles of transgender teens.
Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.