Many think of public libraries as a quiet place to study, do research or get lost in a book. But for some groups, they’re a battleground—the most common place where books are challenged by parents and library patrons who object to the content of a book. Now, the American Library Association has released its list of 2014’s most-challenged books, along with statistics on who challenges books and why.
At the top of the list was Sherman Alexie’s young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which won a 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and has been on the list five times since its publication in 2007. It was followed by Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, a graphic novel that sparked a battle when it was banned from Chicago public schools in 2013. Coming in at number three was And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, a picture book about two male penguins raising a chick that’s been on the list seven times since its release in 2007.
The ALA’s report also revealed the demographics of challenged books. Thirty-eight percent of the year’s more than 300 reports were in response to books at public libraries, with school books coming in at a close second (36 percent). Thirty-five percent of challenges were brought by parents, 23 percent by library patrons and two percent by clergy or pressure groups.
Why do books get challenged? Though the ALA notes that most books are challenged for more than one reason, books are most often challenged due to “sexually explicit” content (34 percent), offensive language (23 percent) and claims that they are unsuitable for their suggested age group (21 percent).
Librarians are especially concerned about the number of books by and about people of color that are challenged and banned—80 percent of this year’s list “reflect diverse issues and cultural content.” Those numbers are reflected in a recent survey by young adult author Malinda Lo, who found that between 2010 and 2013, 52 percent of banned and challenged books contained diverse content. “Attempts to remove books by authors of color and books with themes about issues concerning communities of color are disproportionately challenged and banned,” said the ALA in a release. “The lack of diverse books for young readers continues to fuel concern.”
Wondering if one of your favorites is on the list of 2014’s most-challenged books? Here’s the full list:
1) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”
2) Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”
3) And Tango Makes Three, Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”
4) The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”
5) It’s Perfectly Normal, by Robie Harris
Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: “alleges it child pornography”
6) Saga, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Reasons: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
7) The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence
8) The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”
9) A Stolen Life, by Jaycee Dugard
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group
10) Drama, by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: sexually explicit