LGBT literature dominates American Library Association’s top 10 ‘most challenged’ books list

Unsplash/Banter Snaps
Unsplash/Banter Snaps

Public library books that promote LGBT relationships and political views were among the most challenged books of 2019, according to a recent report by the American Library Association.

The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom released their annual top 10 most challenged list this week, as part of their observing National Library Week, which takes place April 19-25.

At number one was George by Alex Gino, which had been “challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden to avoid controversy” over LGBT content, which includes a transgender character.

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Second place went to Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin and third went to A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss and illustrated by EG Keller.

George by Alex Gino
George by Alex Gino | (Photo:

Only two of the top 10 books listed were challenged for reasons other than objections to LGBT content. This included The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which was banned and challenged for profanity and sexual content, and the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling over its focus on witchcraft.

Data for the report came from 377 documented challenges to books in libraries and schools in 2019, with a total of 566 books being challenged overall plus 41 other reading materials like magazines and newspapers.

According to the ALA’s “State of America’s Libraries 2020” report, the total 607 reading materials challenged represented a 14 percent increase in challenges compared to 2018.

The report found that 45 percent of the challenges came from patrons, while 18 percent came from parents, 13 percent came from administrators, and 12 percent came from political and religious groups.

The ALA has stated that they oppose these challenges, arguing that they hinder intellectual freedom, and also that they believe these documented examples “are only a snapshot of book challenges.”

“Surveys indicate that 82-97% of book challenges — documented requests to remove materials from schools or libraries — remain unreported and receive no media,” stated the group.

Although LGBT-themed books have often featured prominently on the annual ALA list of most challenged, in 2015 the Bible made it to No. 6 on the list.

"You have people who feel that if a school library buys a copy of the Bible, it's a violation of church and state," explained James LaRue, then head of the ALA OIF, as reported by the Associated Press in 2016.

"And sometimes there's a retaliatory action, where a religious group has objected to a book and a parent might respond by objecting to the Bible." 

The ALA has stated in the past that Bibles are acceptable books for public libraries to include, provided they are not promoted or endorsed by the library. 

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