Banned Books Week 2021 – ALA’s Most Challenged Books List for 2020 Revealed

Hayleigh Moore - September 29, 2021

The Hate U Give, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian among the American Library Association’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books

Banned Books Week (September 26 – October 2, 2021) is an annual celebration of the freedom to read and serves as a platform to spotlight current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship, engaging an estimated 2.8 billion readers, and more than 90,000 publishing industry and library subscribers.

Banned Books Week was launched in the 1980s during a time of increased challenges, organized protests, and the Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) Supreme Court case, which ruled that school officials can’t ban books in libraries simply because of their content.

According to the ALA’s most recent data, parents initiate challenges more often than any other groups. While books are usually challenged with the best intentions, such as protecting children from difficult ideas and information, the Access to Library Resources and Services for Minors, an interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights (ALA’s basic policy concerning access to information) states that, “Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents—and only parents—have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children—and only their children—to library resources.” So any censorship by librarians of constitutionally protected speech, whether for protection or for any other reason, violates the First Amendment.

To help alleviate barriers to reading, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles an annual list of challenged books in order to inform the public about censorship efforts that affect libraries and schools based on reports generated by libraries, schools, and the media. This year, the OIF found that 273 books were affected by censorship attempts in 2020.

Among the 273 books affected, here are the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020 and the reasons cited for the challenge:

George written in colorful letters with a red border

  1. George by Alex Gino

Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”

Stamped book cover with blue lettering and black silhouette

  1. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds

Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people

All American Boys book cover

  1. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”

Speak Book cover with a tree in front a close up headshot

  1. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity

Photo of the book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

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

Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author

Two children standing on a newspaper article

  1. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin

Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views

To Kill A Mockingbird book cover with a graphic tree

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience

  1. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students

  1. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse

  1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message
(Original ALA article here)

Look out for the ALA’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books List for 2021 dropping in April 2022!

About the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom:

Established December 1, 1967, the Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) is charged with implementing ALA policies concerning the concept of intellectual freedom as embodied in the Library Bill of Rights,
the Association’s basic policy on free access to libraries and library materials. The goal of the office is to educate librarians and the general public about the nature and importance of intellectual freedom in libraries.


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