Thanks to ALA, we’re focusing on books with diverse content and books with diverse authors this Banned Books Week, so we thought a blog post full of young adult books would be in order. There are lots of young adult books for us to choose today, so if we skipped your favorite, you may see it later this week or even way down at the bottom of this post in our extra bonus Banned Books reads.

miseducation-of-cameron-postMiseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth is a young adult novel that was released in 2014. This book centers around the life of Cameron Post. Cam’s parents die suddenly in a car crash and she finds herself feeling relief. With them both gone, neither of them will know that she had been kissing a girl just hours before they died.

After their death, Cam has to move in with her aunt and grandmother. Her aunt is conservative and her grandmother is immensely old-fashioned. She is living in Miles City, Montana, a town where she has to hide who she really is from everyone around her. This conservative ranch town is hard for Cam to adjust to, so she tries to blend in and bury her feelings.

Coley Taylor moves to town then and Cam’s life changes. Coley is a perfect cowgirl, beautiful, and driving a pickup. She also has the perfect boyfriend. Coley and Cam become super close and Cam finds herself seeing that something more may happen. Right when this seems actually possible, her ultrareligious Aunt Ruth sends her to a religious camp to be ‘cured’.

fallen-angelsFallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers was number 26 on the list of most frequently challenged books written by authors of color from 1990-1999 and is currently number 11 of the top 100 Banned/Challenged books: 200-2009 list. This book is frequently banned for reasons of racism, offensive language, and violence. Myers also won the 1988 Coretta Scott King Award for this book.

Fallen Angels tells the story of Richie Perry, a seventeen-year-old student who has just left his Harlem high school. He has decided to enlist in the Army in the summer of 1967 after his college plans fall through. As a result, Richie spends a year on active duty in Vietnam, something that changes his life forever. He has illusions about what he will face over there and doesn’t believe that he will be sent overseas because of his knee injury.

Richie finds himself face-to-face with the horrors of warfare and the Vietcong they are fighting every day. He struggles with all the violence and death around him, but those are not the only thing haunting him and his comrades. They are told they will encounter light, easy work, something that proves to be untrue when one of the first new recruits he meets is killed during his squad’s first patrol. He is deeply shaken and the increasing levels of destruction and brutality he witnesses leave him questioning the morality of war and the virtues of the people around him. Richie also finds himself questioning why the black troops are given the most dangerous assignments and why the U.S. has even involved themselves in this war.

Walter Dean Myers also has several other books that are banned because of diverse content: Monster, Hoops, and Scorpions.

will-grayson-will-graysonWill Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan has been banned/challenged multiple times for its content. Levithan also has multiple other books that have been challenged for the same reasons. This book deals with homosexuality and relationships.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson tells the story of two different Will Graysons: one gay and one straight. Will Grayson meets Will Grayson, one cold night on a very unlikely street corner in Chicago. This chance meeting changes both of their lives, and the lives of their friends, forever. Will Grayson and Will Grayson find their worlds meshed together, collided and intertwined. One straight Will Grayson and the other gay Will Grayson are both dealing with romantic relationships, complicated friendships, and friends that think they know what is best for them.

David Levithan has more books banned/challenged for diverse content: Two Boys Kissing, Boy Meets Boy, Hold Me Closer, and Full Spectrum.

Here are a list of other young adult books that are frequently banned or challenged that are either by diverse authors or have diverse content! Click on the title for more information. There are many, many other young adult books that have been banned, but we just don’t have the room in this blog post to share them all. For more information, contact us!

(Here’s a list of frequently challenged young adult books to help you get started! )


Welcome to day 3! Today we’ll be looking at one author of color who has many books on the most frequently challenged/banned list. This author is Toni Morrison and her most frequently challenged books are The Bluest Eye, Beloved, and Song of Solomon.

Toni Morrison is an editor, writer, playwright, literary critic, and professor. She is a Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize winning novelist with many well-known and best-selling novels. (Three of her best known are the challenged ones mentioned above.) Her novels contain richly detailed and vivid African-American characters with large themes and expressive dialogue. Even though her books are banned, Morrison has been awarded a whole slew of honorary degrees and has amassed nearly every book prize possible.

the-bluest-eyeThe Bluest Eye was the first novel written by Morrison in 1970. It has been challenged for being sexually explicit and for containing offensive language. Morrison writes about incest, rape, prostitution, domestic violence, racism, child molestation, abuse, and other sensitive topics.

This book tells the story of Pecola Breedlove, an eleven-year-old black girl living in Ohio after the Great Depression. She is sent to live with the MacTeer family after her father tries to burn their house down. Pecola is obsessed with beautiful white movie stars in movies, particularly Shirley Temple, and believes that if she only had the bluest eyes, she would be considered beautiful.

No matter where she goes or what she does, Pecola constantly believes she is ugly. This perception is only confirmed for her when she goes home and sees the tension-filled relationship between her parents. They constantly abuse each other. Pecola’s mother loves movies and her job working in a white woman’s home. Her father feels stuck in his marriage and lashes out on Pecola and her mother because of it. Throughout the story, Pecola constantly believes if only she had blue eyes, her life would be infinitely better. This belief, and other explosive factors, eventually drives her mad.

belovedBeloved is often banned/challenged for violence and for being sexually explicit. Morrison writes about the issue of slavery and talks about the stories that people choose to forget and the stories they choose to pass on. This book is told through a series of flashbacks and memories and is not narrated chronologically.

In 1873 Ohio, Sethe, a former slave, lives with her eighteen-year-old daughter, Denver. Sethe’s mother-in-law died eight years ago. Sethe also has two sons who ran away right before Baby Suggs’ death. The house they live in is believed to be haunted and some say that this is be the spirit of Sethe’s dead daughter.

Paul D., a former slave that Sethe last saw over twenty years ago, appears on their front stoop and moves in. His arrival spurs the novel to begin its flashbacks and memory-telling. Readers are treated to the memories of Sethe growing up in the South. After she turned 13, Sethe lived with the Garners, who practiced slavery, but were not necessarily violent. After the master dies however, his brother takes over and his sadist tendencies become apparent. Sethe and Paul D. incur massive hardship under their new master, leading them both to try to escape. Sethe eventually does and Paul D. then ends up on her doorstep many years later. After he appears, Sethe’s past actions come back to haunt her and the family goes down a twisty, violent, sadistic road.

song-of-solomonSong of Solomon is frequently challenged/banned for racism, offensive language, and for being sexually explicit. These reasons are some of the same for Morrison’s other two books being banned. This book is a multi-generational exploration into racial identity, self-discovery and social classes.

Four generations of a family with the last name of Dead have a powerful history that not everyone knows the truth about. Milkman, aka Macon Dead III, is the protagonist in this story. He is self-centered and uncaring about anyone around him. At the age of 32, he decides he no longer wants to live at home with his stifling parents. Milkman has questions over his parents differing historical memories and his own family history. The characters in this story are struggling to gain independence and prosperity, not just wealth, and their black identities/ancestral ties play a key role in their successes and failures.

If you haven’t read any of Morrison’s work, we recommend you check them out. Stay tuned for more banned book week goodness tomorrow!

This year’s Banned Book Week is focusing on the diversity of authors and ideas that have prompted a disproportionate share of challenges. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom estimates that more than half of all banned books are by authors of color or ones that represent groups of viewpoints outside the mainstream. As a result, this week we will be sharing some reviews of our favorite banned books that fit this category.

The ALA’s website has a list of Frequently Challenged Books with Diverse Content and another list of Most Frequently Challenged Books Written by Authors of Color 1990-1999. Check out these lists for suggestions of books to read that fit into this year’s theme.

This first day we will be looking at a couple graphic novels that frequently make this list: Habibi by Craig Thompson, Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, and Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. There are many other graphic novels that have been banned and frequently challenged, but we’re just focusing on these three today. (Stay tuned and you may see more later this week!)

habibiHabibi by Craig Thompson frequently finds itself on the top ten list of most frequently challenged books. In fact, this graphic novel is number 8 on the top ten list of 2015. Habibi is frequently banned for reasons of nudity, sexually explicitness, and unsuited for age group. The challenging and banning of this graphic novel deprives readers of this intense story of love and relationships, more specifically the commonalities found between Christianity and Islam, as well as an examination of the cultural divide present between first and third worlds.

Habibi tells the story of Dolola, a young girl sold into marriage to a scribe who teaches her to read and write. She is captured by slave traders, but escapes, taking with her an abandoned toddler. They take refuge in an abandoned boat in the desert for the next nine years where Dolola teaches Zam how the world works by telling him stories from the Qur’an and the Bible.  They are separated and fight for the next six years to get back to each other.

persepolisPersepolis by Marjane Satrapi did not make the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2015 list, but it still made the longer list. It was #2 on the 2014 list. Persepolis is frequently banned for the following reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint, graphic depictions, and for being politically racially, and socially offensive.

Persepolis is a cultural eye-opener, a story that shows that the grass is not always greener on the other side, no matter your life circumstances. This graphic novel centers around the Islamic revolution and tells the story of Marjane’s childhood in Tehran. Growing up in a country in the midst of political upheaval means that her public life and her private life constantly contradicted each other. Her free-thinking family gives Marjane the strength to find herself even though her youth was formed during such a tumultuous time.

fun-homeFun Home by Alison Bechdel, just like the previous two graphic novels, is a frequent flyer on the challenged list. This graphic novel is frequently challenged for violence and other graphic images. The reason Fun Home finds itself as one of our diverse banned book selections is because of the subject matter.

Fun Home is Bechdel’s childhood autobiography. She tells the story of her closeted gay father, a man who was an English teacher and the owner/operator of the local funeral home. His secrets overshadow the lives of everyone else in the family, throwing Bechdel’s emerging womanhood and her homosexuality as a side player in the drama of his life. In her early teens, he goes to court over his relationship with a young boy while his death, most likely a suicide, trumps her coming out. This book is full of death, suicide, homosexuality, family strife, tragedy, desperation, violence, and other graphic images that make Fun Home a key player on the banned/challenged book list each year.

Check back tomorrow for more banned books!

“Something will be offensive to someone in every book, so you’ve got to fight it.” – Judy Blume

Judy Blume would know — she has 5 of the top 100 most challenged books from 1990-1999 — but when you peruse the lists of the most frequently challenged books, it is hard not to agree.  Below, I’ve highlighted the three challenged books that surprised me the most.

strega nonaStrega Nona by Tomie dePaola
Tomie dePaola’s classic picture book is often cited as one of the best picture books of all time — it was #34 on SLJ’s Top 100 Picture Books — so it might come as a surprise that it has been challenged.  The story of a magical old woman (“grandma witch”) who tells her assistant — Big Anthony — not to touch her magical pot of pasta.  Big Anthony ignores her and Strega Nona must save the day before the town is overrun in pasta.
Why was it challenged or banned? Witchcraft, of course.

wheres waldoWhere’s Waldo by Martin Hanford
I loved Where’s Waldo books as a kid.  My mom would bring a stack of them with us on long car rides and they would entertain my brother and me for hours.  Waldo books are a challenge of concentration and a fantastic way to get kids to pick up on pattern and color.  I looked at these books for hours and before reading about why the book was challenged and banned, I would have never guessed.
Why was it challenged or banned? Apparently in searching for Waldo, some people have been shocked to find topless sunbathers, gay couples, and people holding up the rocker hand sign (or as they called it “Hail Satan”).

charlotte's webCharlotte’s Web by E.B. White
I wept the first time I read this book.  This beautiful story about the friendship between Wilbur, a pig, and Charlotte, a barn spider, is a classic.  It is heartbreaking in the way many of the best children’s books are, and is beloved around the world.  When I think of stories to share with children, I’ve always thought that this is a safe (albeit sad)  book to recommend.  Apparently, I was wrong.
Why was it challenged or banned? It was banned in 2006 when a group of parents were upset that it included talking animals and inappropriate subject matter (death).

The last time I checked, the bleak dystopian future was still firmly entrenched as the film fad genre over yesterday’s vampires and zombies. I’m looking at you, Divergent and Hunger Games.

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest none of these trilogies would be possible without the granddaddy of them all, George Orwell’s 1984. Written in 1948, this piece is required reading for high school seniors for the pop culture references alone, a la Big Brother and thought crime. You won’t be able to find your way out of an Orwellian abyss without it.

Pepper in references to this work and your modern-day conspiracy theory is half-written! Technological and poltical relevance almost 70 years later is some staying power, if not clairvoyance on the part of Orwell, who passed away in 1950.

1984 was banned in the former U.S.S.R., and challenged in 1981 in Florida on the grounds of being “pro-communist”, no doubt by the irony-impaired.

Banned Books Week


What are Banned Books? Books that have been removed from schools or libraries.

Why are books banned? The top three reasons for banned books are as follows:

1. The material was considered to be “sexually explicit.”

2. The material contained “offensive language.”

3. The material was “unsuited for any age group.”

Why do we have Banned Books Week? Founded in 1982 and celebrated annually during the last week in September, it is an awareness campaign for the Freedom to Read.

How can you participate in Banned Books Week?

Many local libraries will be participating in Banned Books Week by either holding programs or creating displays. The Bettendorf Public Library will be hosting Banned Song Fest on Monday, September 28 at 6:30 pm. Local musicians will preform banned songs and music styles in honor of Banned Books Week. At the Rock Island Public Library local librarians and writers will read from banned books on Tuesday, September 29 at 6:00 pm. The Davenport Public Library will have displays at each location where you can learn about and check out a variety of banned books.

Banned Books

The top ten challenged books of 2014

The 100 most banned/challenged books from 2000-2009


the absolutely true diary The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is currently ranked number 1 for the most challenged books of 2014 according to The American Library Association. While this book is considered YA fiction, it is based on the real life events of Native American Author Sherman Alexie. I read this book while attending graduate school as part of a multicultural literature course.  The book is about Arnold, an incredibly smart Native American boy living on a reservation. He is given the opportunity to attend an all white school outside of the reservation. This book highlights not only some of the struggles of Native Americans living on reservations, but dives deep into what it took for this character to break away from his life on the reservation. When I finished reading the book I immediately researched the author. It was shocking to read that this work is semi-autobiographical, but still all the more important that this book remain on shelves. Anyone should have the opportunity to read this book. Why is the book challenged/banned? The book contains themes and elements of alcohol abuse, sex, violence, bullying, and racial issues.
go ask aliceGo Ask Alice was published in 1971 and for many years was thought to be the anonymous diary of a troubled teenager that became addicted to drugs. It was later revealed to have been written by Beatrice Sparks, a psychologist, only partially based on one of her patient’s diaries. Since this revelation, the book is considered a work of fiction. I read this books several years ago as I was making my way through a list of top 100 books that everyone should read. While the book does tend to be over the top in certain circumstances, it does include so much of the feelings and thoughts experienced by young women. Why is this book challenged/banned? Despite being published over 40 years ago, the book has never been out of print and still remains high up in the list of challenged/banned books. The book contains drug use, sex, and offensive language.



Here at the Davenport Public Library, we are celebrating our freedom to read during Banned Books Week by reading frequently challenged and banned books.  From September 22nd until the 28th, we encourage you to stop by one of the DPL locations and pick up one of the books that have been banned or challenged at libraries across the country.  We will have many of the books on display, and as always, stop by the reference desk and we’ll help you find the book you need.  You might be surprised to find one of your favorites on the list.

The 10 most frequently challenged books of 2012:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Scary Stories Series by Alvin Schwartz, The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, Beloved by Toni Morrison

This classic children’s novel has been weathering the storm of censorship and controversy for 4 decades now. Jean Craighead George won the 1973 Newbery Medal for her novel, Julie of the Wolves, which tells the story of a Yupik Eskimo girl called Miyax (Julie to her pen pal in San Francisco) who survives alone on the Arctic tundra by communicating with a wolf pack. The outside world has wrought changes on Julie’s culture, and when she is forced to choose between an arranged marriage and a harsh, desperate flight across the wild tundra, she runs away. She eventually learns the language of the wolves and becomes a member of the pack, a process that’s terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure.

Julie’s journey of survival and self discovery has resonated with young and old readers since its publication in the seventies, despite being challenged for including violence and being “unsuited to age group.” To learn more about this book, censorship, and Banned Books Week, check out the ALA Banned Books Week website.

In honor of Banned Books Week, which lasts until October sixth, I’m revisiting my favorite banned book: Beloved by Toni Morrison. I first read this masterpiece in a high school English course; it’s dense and lyrical and moving. The story is based on a real-life tragedy: an escaped slave woman who murdered her own children to stop her owner from recapturing them. That woman is Sethe, and her life story is one of mingled despair and hope, tragedy and good luck. The narrative is touched by the supernatural: the spirit of Sethe’s murdered baby, whose headstone only reads Beloved, has haunted her house ever since her death. 20 years later, when a pretty 20 year old girl turns up on Sethe’s front step knowing things only a family member could know, it’s unclear what her intentions and her identity really are.

Sethe’s story is magical and moving. It’s been banned or challenged for containing offensive language, explicit sexuality, and being “unsuited to age group,” according to the American Library Association’s list of banned and challenged books. When I read this novel as a teenager, I wasn’t scarred, offended, or damaged: Morrison’s book was, instead, eye-opening and moving. It made me more interested in literature and in history, and it gave my class fodder for discussions that improved our understanding of reading and the way it impacts real life. I hope you’ll check it out: you won’t be disappointed.

To learn more about this book, censorship, and Banned Books Week, check out the ALA Banned Books Week website.

Banned Books Week is an annual event sponsored by the American Library Association; it’s purpose is to celebrate the freedom to read. At the Davenport Public Library, we’ve got displays up at our three locations showing some of the many books that have been challenged, banned or restricted over the years.  You might be surprised to find some of your favorite titles on the list!  Here are a few of my favorites that someone, at sometime, deemed inappropriate:

Come check out our display and accompanying brochure with titles of even more banned books.  Maybe this would be the perfect time to read one!