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The American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom disclosed a remarkable surge in reported book challenges in 2022, with figures doubling compared to the previous year. Furthermore, the number of challenges aimed at unique titles increased by nearly 40%.
Each year, the ALA publishes data on the most frequently challenged books, with the goal of removing them from public and school library shelves. While acknowledging the impossibility of tracking every challenge, the ALA relies on various sources such as news stories and voluntary reports submitted to the Office of Intellectual Freedom for this data.
- In 2022, reported book challenges doubled, and challenges to unique titles increased by nearly 40%.
- The majority of the challenged books contained LGBTQIA+ or sexually explicit content.
- The ALA report highlights the rise in coordinated efforts to censor multiple titles without reading them.
- Defending free access to information in libraries and schools is crucial for promoting growth and diverse perspectives.
In 2022, the ALA expanded its list to include the 13 most contested books. Of the 2,571 unique titles that were banned or challenged, eight have appeared on the list for multiple years, with several new entries from 2021.
Lessa Kananiʻopua Pelayo-Lozada, President of the American Library Association, observes a shift in the nature of challenges. Previously, books were challenged when a parent or community member found objectionable content in a library book. However, the current climate has evolved: “Now we’re witnessing coordinated efforts by groups to censor numerous titles nationwide, despite not having read many of these books.” Despite the rise in challenges, a library association poll reveals that most Americans oppose book banning.
Topping the ALA’s list once again this year is Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe. This graphic memoir chronicles Kobabe’s journey toward a nonbinary, queer gender identity. The majority of books on the list faced challenges due to alleged LGBTQIA+ or sexually explicit content. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison encountered opposition for its portrayal of rape and incest, while others were contested for profanity, drug use, and EDI content.
Books have long been the center of censorship disputes. Persistent attempts to ban books underscore the significance of unrestricted access to information. Libraries and schools function as spaces for individuals to freely explore information without censorship. Banning books constraints access to literature, art, and information that can stimulate readers and foster personal growth.
Most of the books on the list were challenged for LGBTQIA+ or sexually explicit content. The top 5 most challenged books of 2022 are as follows:
- Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe – This graphic memoir faced opposition for its LGBTQIA+ content, alleged to be sexually explicit.
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson – This memoir was challenged for its LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit.
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison – This classic novel encountered opposition for its depiction of rape, incest, and sexually explicit content, as well as its EDI (Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) content.
- Flamer by Mike Curato – This novel faced challenges for its LGBTQIA+ content, alleged to be sexually explicit.
- Looking for Alaska by John Green – This novel was challenged for its sexually explicit content and LGBTQIA+ themes.
In 2022, the number of book challenges doubled, with challenges to unique titles rising by nearly 40%. The ALA report unveils a surge in coordinated efforts to censor numerous titles across the nation without reading them. Efforts to ban books restrict access to literature, art, and information that can provoke readers and promote growth. Upholding free access to information, particularly in libraries and schools, remains a vital endeavor.
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