Your Freedom to Read: 10 Most Challenged Books in the United States

Every year, the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom releases statistics on the number of challenges to books and other materials in libraries, schools and universities. A challenge is the attempt to remove or restrict access to items in a collection based upon the objections of an individual or group. Last year, the numbers were staggering. There were 729 challenges made nationwide in the year 2021. That is a 93% increase from 2019, the last pre-pandemic year. The 729 challenges targeted 1,597 books. Here is the list of the top 10 most challenged books in 2021 and the reasons listed for the challenges.

For more information, visit the ALA's Banned Books Week website and celebrate your freedom to read. Information is from the ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom.

The Iowa City Public Library believes that intellectual freedom is a constitutional right and integral to a democratic society. Libraries provide information, ideas and resources in a variety of formats, enabling an informed citizenry. We respect the right to privacy and encourage people to freely access and explore ideas.

Gender queer

Kobabe, Maia, author, artist.

306.768 /Kobabe

"In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia's intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity--what it means and how to think about it--for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere."--Amazon.

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Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, and because it was considered to have sexually explicit images
- Anne M

Lawn boy : a novel

Evison, Jonathan, author.

FICTION Evison Jonathan

"Mike Muñoz is a young Mexican American not too many years out of high school--and just fired from his latest gig as a lawn boy on a landscaping crew. Though he tries time and again to get his foot on the first rung of that ladder to success, he can't seem to get a break. But then things start to change for Mike, and after a raucous, jarring, and challenging trip, he finds he can finally see the future and his place in it"--

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Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
- Anne M

All boys aren't blue : a memoir-manifesto

Johnson, George M. (George Matthew), 1985-

306.7662 /Johnson

In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.

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Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, profanity, and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
- Anne M

Out of darkness

Pérez, Ashley Hope, author.


New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. They know the people who enforce them. But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive. (Set during the 1937 New London school explosion, the deadliest school disaster in American history.).

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Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted for depictions of abuse and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
- Anne M

The hate u give

Thomas, Angie, author.


After witnessing her friend's death at the hands of a police officer, Starr Carter's life is complicated when the police and a local drug lord try to intimidate her in an effort to learn what happened the night Kahlil died.

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Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, violence, and because it was thought to promote an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda
- Anne M

The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian

Alexie, Sherman, 1966-


Budding cartoonist Junior leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white farm town school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

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Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references and use of a derogatory term
- Anne M

Me & Earl & the dying girl

Andrews, Jesse.


Seventeen-year-old Greg has managed to become part of every social group at his Pittsburgh high school without having any friends, but his life changes when his mother forces him to befriend Rachel, a girl he once knew in Hebrew school who has leukemia.

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Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and degrading to women
- Anne M

The bluest eye

Morrison, Toni.

FICTION Morrison, Toni

From the acclaimed Nobel Prize winner—a powerful examination of our obsession with beauty and conformity that asks questions about race, class, and gender with characteristic subtly and grace. In Morrison’s acclaimed first novel, Pecola Breedlove—an 11-year-old Black girl in an America whose love for its blond, blue-eyed children can devastate all others—prays for her eyes to turn blue: so that she will be beautiful, so that people will look at her, so that her world will be different. This is the story of the nightmare at the heart of her yearning, and the tragedy of its fulfillment. Here, Morrison’s writing is “so precise, so faithful to speech and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry” (The New York Times).

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Reasons: Banned and challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit
- Anne M

This book is gay

Dawson, James (Young adult fiction writer), author.

306.76 /Dawson

"Lesbian. Bisexual. Queer. Transgender. Straight. Curious. This book is for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual preference. This candid, funny, and uncensored exploration of sexuality and what it's like to grow up LGBTQ also includes real stories from people across the gender and sexual spectrums, not to mention hilarious illustrations.

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Reasons: Banned, challenged, relocated, and restricted for providing sexual education and LGBTQIA+ content.
- Anne M

Beyond magenta : transgender teens speak out

Kuklin, Susan.

306.768 /Kuklin

A groundbreaking work of LGBT literature takes an honest look at the life, love, and struggles of transgender teens. Author and photographer Susan Kuklin met and interviewed six transgender or gender-neutral young adults and used her considerable skills to represent them thoughtfully and respectfully before, during, and after their personal acknowledgment of gender preference. Portraits, family photographs, and candid images grace the pages, augmenting the emotional and physical journey each youth has taken. Each honest discussion and disclosure, whether joyful or heartbreaking, is completely different from the other because of family dynamics, living situations, gender, and the transition these teens make in recognition of their true selves.

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Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
- Anne M