Most Challenged Books

Religion, Gender Top Issues in Library Group’s List of Challenged Books

The release of the latest edition of the American Library Association's Top 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books list coincides with political attention being paid to censorship.

The American Library Association’s list of frequently challenged books, a part of the ALA’s State of America’s Libraries Report, is always interesting to dive into.

Acclaimed authors like Harper Lee have found their books near the top of the list, along with titles considered more traditionally controversial, such as E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey. Generally, the books tend to be ones that community members wanted restricted or removed from a library or school.

In the latest edition of the list, released Monday in connection with National Library Week, the popular Fifty Shades of Grey is near the top, second only to young-adult author John Green’s Looking for Alaska. But the book that’s getting the most attention this year is a bit further down the list: the Bible.

Come again? According to James LaRue, the head of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, those who object to the Bible’s presence on public library shelves often cite the principle of separation of church and state. Usually, though, it’s all about the context—particularly at a given school or library.

“Sometimes there’s a retaliatory action, where a religious group has objected to a book and a parent might respond by objecting to the Bible,” LaRue told the Associated Press.

Guidelines issued by the Office for Intellectual Freedom emphasize that ALA does not believe the Bible or other religious texts violate the separation of church and state, “as long as the library does not endorse or promote the views” included in them.

Many of the other challenged books on this year’s list deal with homosexuality and transgender issues, including Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out and I Am Jazz, based on the life story of the trans woman and activist Jazz Jennings.

Earlier this month, the ALA praised Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe  for vetoing a bill that would have required that parents be notified if students were assigned a book considered “sexually explicit.” The measure, which had been criticized by free-speech groups, including the ALA, came about after a parent attempted to have the Toni Morrison novel Beloved removed from her child’s curriculum.

Below is the ALA’s list of the Top 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2015:

  1. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
  2. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
  3. I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
  4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
  6. The Holy Bible
  7. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
  8. Habibi, by Craig Thompson
  9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
  10. Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan

(Patrick Tomasso/Stocksnap)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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