10 books politicians don’t want you to read

Book bans are nothing new. Throughout history, some books have been criticized for content deemed inappropriate or controversial – often this content is by and about people of color, the LGBTQ community, and other marginalized groups. As a series of classroom censorship bills aim to erase discussions of race and gender in schools across the country, books on the same issues are banned and challenged in public schools and libraries. at an alarming rate. In 2021, the American Library Association recorded 729 book challenges, up from 156 challenges received the previous year.

Check out some of the books that have recently been banned or challenged for removal from public schools and libraries in our “ACLU Banned Book Club Reading List” below.

NOTE: The following list includes books that have been officially removed or have recently been challenged to be removed from schools or public libraries.


Forbidden books

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1. The bluest eye by Toni Morrison

Published in 1970, “The Bluest Eye” was the debut novel by Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winner Toni Morrison. Its 11-year-old protagonist, Pecola Breedlove, faces racism and sexual abuse as she comes of age in 1940s Ohio. American history, the book has been the target of frequent bans for content described as “sexually explicit material”, “intrusive language”, and an “underlying socialist-communist agenda”. ”

“The Bluest Eye” is one of the books at the center of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Missouri in February against the Wentzville R-IV School District. The school district reversed its decision to ban the book shortly after the lawsuit was filed, but the litigation continues. Other recent challenges to the book have occurred in Mississippi, where Mayor Gene McGee of Ridgeland tried to withhold more than $100,000 in public funds from the Madison County library system unless he purged it as well as other specific books, and in Virginia, where a school board in Virginia Beach took the book out of circulation, only to put it back on the shelves soon after due to public outcry.

2. Heather has two moms by Leslea Newman

Cover of the book Heather has two moms

Credit: Wikipedia

The children’s book “Heather Has Two Moms” tells the story of a young girl whose family is unlike that of her classmates. As the daughter of LGBTQ parents, Heather realizes she stands out when she draws a picture of her family for a class assignment. For over 30 years, the book has been an important example of LGBTQ+ representation and inclusion for young readers.

Recently, a Pennridge School District superintendent in Pennsylvania called for it to be removed from elementary school library shelves for “referring to gender identity,” along with other books dealing with LGBTQ+ issues.

3. Not all boys are blue by George Johnson

book cover of Not All Boys Are Blue

Credit: Wikipedia

In “Not All the Boys Are Blue,” LGBTQ+ activist George M. Johnson writes about growing up black and queer, including his experiences with bullying, his first sexual encounters, and other stories throughout. throughout his childhood and adolescence in New Jersey and Virginia. The book is currently targeted for removal by at least 14 states due to its LGBTQ+ themes.

The book is among those implicated in the ACLU of Missouri’s lawsuit against the Wentzville School District R-IV, filed in February. Other recent challenges have occurred in Mississippi, where a mayor attempted to withhold more than $100,000 in public funds from the Madison County library system unless he purged books with LGBTQ+ themes, and in Florida, where a member of the Flagler County school board filed a report with the sheriff’s office in November 2021, claiming that having the book in school libraries is a crime.

4. Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

Non-binary and asexual author Maia Kobabe, who uses the pronouns e/em/eir, details her journey through adolescence and the emergence of her identity in ‘Gender Queer,’ an autobiographical graphic novel about what it’s like. is that of not adapting to traditional norms of gender and sexuality.

Recent challenges have occurred in Texas, where the Keller Independent School District removed the book without proper review for what it described as “inappropriate imagery”; in Florida, where Brevard Public Schools removed the book from library shelves in October 2021; in Virginia, where it was among the books targeted for removal by the Virginia Beach City Public School Board; and in Illinois, where a group of parents in Downers Grove, a Chicago suburb, are calling on the school district to ban Gender Queer from high school libraries.

5. george* by Alex Gino

*Published as Melissa until April 2021

George book cover

Credit: Wikipedia

The protagonist of the children’s novel “George” is a fourth-grade student who takes on her own identity as a trans girl in a world that only knows her as “George.” The author, who goes by them/their/their pronouns and identifies as genderqueer, wrote the book because of a long-standing void of voices like theirs in literature. “I wrote it because it was the book I wanted to read,” Gino explained. “I wanted trans voices telling trans stories.”

Since its publication in 2015, “George” has been one of the most contested books for conflicting with the “traditional family structure”. A recent challenge occurred in Florida, where it was pulled from Polk County libraries along with 16 other books – many of which highlight themes of race and LGBTQ+ issues.

6. Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism and Youby Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds

Author and historian Ibram X. Kendi has teamed up with children’s book author Jason Reynolds to write “Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You” – a National Book Award-winning work on the history of racism in America. But it is not the standard type of history book, as its authors claim in its first pages.

This is NOT a history book.

It’s a book about the here and now.

A book to help us better understand why we are where we are.

A book on race.

Rather, “Stamped” is a new form of storytelling that fuses past and present to engage young readers. The book also contains information on how readers can eradicate racism in their daily lives and why there is hope for an anti-racist future.

According to the American Library Association, “Stamped” was one of the most contested books of 2020 in schools. More recently, a college in Texas attempted to remove the book from a reading list (but not from library shelves). However, after a group of black parents protested the removal, the book was put back on the list.

7. All American Boysby Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

All American Boys book cover

Credit: Wikipedia

The young adult novel, “All American Boys,” depicts themes of racism and police brutality seen through the perspectives of its two teenage protagonists: Rashad Butler, who is black, and Quinn Collins, who is white. In the story, Rashad is assaulted by a police officer who suspects him of robbing a convenience store, and Quinn witnesses the encounter.

During the wave of Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, the book received increased attention and scrutiny. Complaints about the book often cite profanity and messages perceived as anti-police, divisive, or “overly sensitive.”

8. lawn boy by Jonathan Evison

Lawn Boy book cover

Credit: Wikipedia

“Lawn Boy” is a semi-autobiographical story about Mike Muñoz, a young Mexican-American who navigates poverty, sexuality and self-identity while growing up in Washington State. The book was the target of bans for containing content described as “homoerotic”.

The book is among those implicated in the ACLU of Missouri’s lawsuit against the Wentzville School District R-IV, filed in February.

9. The hate you give by Angie Thomas

The protagonist of “The Hate U Give” is Starr Carter, a 16-year-old affluent prep school student who comes from a low-income community. The delicate balance between the two worlds she navigates reaches a tipping point when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend, Khalil, at the hands of the police, and the public debate that ensues. let the news spread in the community.

Despite its popularity, the book was the target of bans for containing profanity and “anti-police” messages. It has been challenged in schools across the country, including in Texas, where the Katy Independent School District banned it in 2017; in Illinois, where it has been banned by the ROWVA school district since 2018; and in Pennsylvania, where the Dubois Area School District announced in November 2021 that students would need parental consent to read it.

ten. between the world and me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Cover of the book Between the world and me

Credit: Wikipedia

National Book Award-winning “Between the World and Me” is a semi-autobiographical work about racism in America. The story is told through a letter from the author to his 15-year-old son. Her outspoken discussions of race have made her controversial in schools and detention centers seeking to ban her.

In October 2021, “Between the World and Me” was included in a list of school library books targeted for investigation by Texas Representative Matt Krause during the state’s ongoing debate on banning “critical theory of race” in classrooms.

The ACLU is actively pursuing litigation to block government action that bans books from library shelves because of disagreement with the views they express or disapproval of the life experiences they describe, including many of the books listed above. Recently, the ACLU of Missouri filed a lawsuit against the Wentzville R-IV School District for banning eight books – including “The Bluest Eye”, “Lawn Boy” and “All Boys Aren’t Blue” – from school library shelves. After the lawsuit was filed, the school board voted to overturn the ban on “The Bluest Eye.”

Students have the right to receive an inclusive education free from censorship or discrimination, and book bans undermine that right. As we continue to fight these unconstitutional laws and policies in court, you can also join the fight by pledging to support students’ right to learn and read banned books.

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