The American Library Association has recorded an increase in direct attacks on the freedom to read, made by parents objecting to sex, profanity and LGBT characters in YA and childrens books
There was an increase in the number of attempts made to censor books in the US in 2017, with the number of challenges documented requests to remove materials from schools or libraries that were recorded by the American Library Association jumping from 323 in 2016 to 354.
The ALA attributed the revitalised effort of parents and community members to have certain books removed from schools and libraries to an increase in blanket bans, where entire topics for example, all LGBT titles are pulled from shelves. The ALA also said there had been a rise in individuals preemptively removing books without following policy, because they are trying to (unsuccessfully) avoid controversy.
In February this year, more than 300 people signed a petition in Orange City, Iowa, to ban or segregate library books with LGBT content. Because some challenges were to multiple books or collections, in total 416 books were targeted by would-be censors last year direct attacks on the freedom to read, said the ALA.
Topping the ALAs list of the most challenged books in 2017 is Jay Ashers Thirteen Reasons Why, a young adult novel that was recently adapted into a Netflix series. The 2007 book was challenged and banned in multiple school districts because it tackles the subject of suicide; the Netflix adaptation has also attracted criticism from mental health campaigners for romanticising suicide.
Ashers novel was followed on the ALAs list of the most challenged books by Sherman Alexies National Book award-winning young adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, because of profanities and situations that were deemed sexually explicit.
Raina Telgemeiers award-winning graphic novel Drama was the third most-challenged title of 2017, because of its LGBT characters, while Khaled Hosseinis acclaimed novel The Kite Runner was attacked because it includes sexual violence and was thought to lead to terrorism and promote Islam, said the ALA.
Harper Lees To Kill a Mockingbird is also on the list, because of its use of the N-word. In recent years, the classic novels presence in US schools has increasingly been questioned by parents, and it was removed from a reading list in a Mississippi school for containing language that makes people uncomfortable.
Angie Thomass award-winning debut novel The Hate U Give, about a teenager who witnesses an unarmed friend being fatally shot by a police officer, also made the list. It was challenged and banned on occasion as it was deemed pervasively vulgar and because of drug use, profanity and offensive language.
The libraries associations Office for Intellectual Freedom has also begun to record incidents of hate crimes in libraries. There were 23 reported in 2017, it said, ranging from the scrawling of swastikas on library walls to the destruction of Muslim religious texts. In two cases, one in a public library parking lot and another within a university library, men made death threats to women wearing hijabs, said the ALA in its annual State of Americas Libraries report, which has just been released.
The top 10 most challenged titles in 2017
1. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: profanity; sexually explicit
3. Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Reason: LGBT Content
4. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Reasons: sexual violence; religious themes; may lead to terrorism
5. George by Alex Gino
Reason: LGBT Content
6. Sex Is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
Reason: Sex education
7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Reasons: violence; racial slurs.
8. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Reasons: drug use; profanity; pervasively vulgar
9. And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole
Reason: LGBT Content
10. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
Reason: gender identity
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