April 10, 2012

Most Frequently Challenged Library Books of 2011


America’s libraries often bear the brunt of censorship attempts.

The American Library Association (ALA) has released its annual list of the most frequently challenged books of 2011.  According to the ALA report, available here,

“Each year, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom receives hundreds of reports on book challenges, which are formal written requests to remove a book from a library or classroom because of an objection to the book’s content. There have been more than 11,000 attempts recorded since the OIF began compiling information on book challenges in 1990.”

Hunger Games, a blockbuster both in print and on film, has been on the list in 2010 and 2011, having been perceived by some as “anti-family” and “anti-ethnic.”  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and Harper Lee‘s To Kill a Mockingbird are also regulars on the list, and are cited for “racism”, amongst others things.

The “winners” of 2011 are, not suprisingly, books that cater mostly to young adults, an often sensitive market:

1) ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series) by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Offensive language; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
2) The Color of Earth (series) by Kim Dong Hwa
Reasons: Nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
3) The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: Anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence
4) My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
Reasons: Nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
5) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Offensive language; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group
6) Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Reasons: Nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
7) Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Reasons: Insensitivity; nudity; racism; religious viewpoint; sexually explicit
8) What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
Reasons: Nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit
9) Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar
Reasons: Drugs; offensive language; sexually explicit
10) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Reasons: Offensive language; racism

The ALA also provides a picture of what might be called a rash of book banning activity across the United States.  2011 was, in their words, a year that put “free access to information in jeopardy.”

“Despite the efforts of a group of concerned citizens in Stockton, Mo., the Stockton R-1 School Board voted last fall to ban Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” from both the high school curriculum and the library…The controversy in Stockton also triggered an outbreak of challenges to other books in the region. Shortly after the Stockton decision, several titles were challenged at a school in nearby Republic, Mo., ranging from textbooks to the novels “Speak,” by Laurie Halse Anderson, “Twenty Boy Summer” , by Sarah Ockler and “Slaughterhouse Five,” by Kurt Vonnegut.”

For some reason, Kurt Vonnegut and his Slaughterhouse-Five are considered public enemies almost cyclically every few years.  According to the ALA, ”The school board [in Republic, Mo.] acted after a Republic resident with no children in school in the district complained about the books, arguing that they teach “principles contrary to Biblical morality and truth,” … In response to the board’s actions, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis announced that it would offer free copies of Slaughterhouse-Five to 150 Republic students.”  A full outline of book banning incidents is available here.

All in all, 2011 was a tough year for libraries, with publishers maintaing their strict stance limiting library ebook access (as discussed on MobyLives) and due to the hard fought battles against SOPA and PIPA.


Ariel Bogle is a publicist at Melville House.