Banned Book Week 2023: Let Freedom Read!

October 1 through October 7th, 2023 marks Banned Books Week! From the Banned Books Week website: ‘Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in libraries, bookstores, and schools. Typically (but not always) held during the last week of September, the annual event highlights the value of free and open access to information and brings together the entire book community — librarians, educators, authors, publishers, booksellers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas.’

LeVar Burton leads this week as the Honorary Chair! Da’Taeveyon Daniels is the Youth Honorary Chair for 2023.

In April 2023, the American Library Association announced the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2022 list. This list actually contains 13 books, due to ties. Below you will find the list of books as well as the reasons they were banned. Descriptions are provided by the publishers. If you have a favorite banned book, share it in the comments!

1. Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit

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.  – Simon & Schuster

This title is also available as a Libby eBook.

Kobabe also released a deluxe edition which is also available as a print book and a Libby eBook.

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2. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit

In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue 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.

Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.  – Farrar, Straus and Giroux

This title is also available as a CD audiobook, Libby eBook, Libby eAudiobook.

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3. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Reasons: depiction of sexual abuse, claimed to be sexually explicit, EDI content

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.  – Penguin Random House

This title is also available as a Libby eBook, large print, and CD audiobook

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4. Flamer by Mike Curato
Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit

I know I’m not gay. Gay boys like other boys. I hate boys. They’re mean, and scary, and they’re always destroying something or saying something dumb or both.

I hate that word. Gay. It makes me feel . . . unsafe.

It’s the summer between middle school and high school, and Aiden Navarro is away at camp. Everyone’s going through changes—but for Aiden, the stakes feel higher. As he navigates friendships, deals with bullies, and spends time with Elias (a boy he can’t stop thinking about), he finds himself on a path of self-discovery and acceptance.  – Henry Holt and Co.

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5. (TIE) Looking for Alaska by John Green
Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content

First drink. First prank. First friend. First love.

Last words.

Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words—and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet François Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young, who will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps.

Looking for Alaska brilliantly chronicles the indelible impact one life can have on another. A modern classic, this stunning debut marked #1 bestselling author John Green’s arrival as a groundbreaking new voice in contemporary fiction.  – Penguin Random House

This title is also available as a Libby eAudiobook, Libby eBook, and Playaway Audiobook.

This book came out as a TV Mini Series in 2019.

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5. (TIE) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content, depiction of sexual abuse, drugs, profanity

Read the #1 New York Times bestselling coming-of-age story that takes a sometimes heartbreaking, often hysterical, and always honest look at high school in all its glory. Also a major motion picture starring Logan Lerman and Emma Watson, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a funny, touching, and haunting modern classic.

The critically acclaimed debut novel from Stephen Chbosky follows observant “wallflower” Charlie as he charts a course through the strange world between adolescence and adulthood. First dates, family drama, and new friends. Sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Devastating loss, young love, and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

A #1 New York Times bestseller for more than a year, an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults (2000) and Best Book for Reluctant Readers (2000), and with millions of copies in print, this novel for teen readers (or “wallflowers” of more-advanced age) will make you laugh, cry, and perhaps feel nostalgic for those moments when you, too, tiptoed onto the dance floor of life. – Simon & Schuster

This book came out as a movie in 2012.

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7. Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit

One of the American Library Association’s Top 10 Most Banned Books for the past two years, this award-winning coming-of-age novel takes readers into the heart and humor of a young man determined to achieve the ever-changing American dream. He just happens to find himself along the way.

For Mike Muñoz, life has been a whole lot of waiting for something to happen. Not too many years out of high school and still doing menial work–and just fired from his latest gig as a lawn boy on a landscaping crew–he’s smart enough to know that he’s got to be the one to shake things up if he’s ever going to change his life. But how? He’s not qualified for much of anything. He has no particular talents, although he is stellar at handling a lawn mower and wielding clipping shears. But now that career seems to be behind him. So what’s next for Mike Muñoz?

Funny, biting, sweet, and ultimately inspiring novel, bestselling author Jonathan Evison’s coming-of-age novel evokes the lives of working class people with compassion and honesty. – Algonquin Books

This title is also available as a Libby eBook.

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8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, profanity

In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live. – Little, Brown and Company

This title is also available as a Libby eBook, Playaway Audiobook, CD audiobook, a book club selection, and a discussion in boxes kit.

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9. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez
Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit

“This is East Texas, and there’s lines. Lines you cross, lines you don’t cross. That clear?”

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.

Ashley Hope Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion—the worst school disaster in American history—as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people. – Lerner Publishing Group

This title is also available as a Libby eBook and Libby eAudiobook.

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10. (TIE) A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit

Feyre has undergone more trials than one human woman can carry in her heart. Though she’s now been granted the powers and lifespan of the High Fae, she is haunted by her time Under the Mountain and the terrible deeds she performed to save the lives of Tamlin and his people.

As her marriage to Tamlin approaches, Feyre’s hollowness and nightmares consume her. She finds herself split into two different people: one who upholds her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court, and one who lives out her life in the Spring Court with Tamlin. While Feyre navigates a dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms. She might just be the key to stopping it, but only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future-and the future of a world in turmoil. – Bloomsbury Publisher

This title is also available as a Libby eBook, CD audiobook, Libby eAudiobook, and Playaway audiobook.

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10. (TIE) Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, drugs

Life was good
before I
met
the monster.

After,
life
was great,
At
least

for a little while.

Kristina Snow is the perfect daughter: gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble.

Then, Kristina meets the monster: crank. And what begins as a wild, ecstatic ride turns into a struggle through hell for her mind, her soul—her life. – Simon & Schuster

This title is also available as a Libby eBook and Libby eAudiobook.

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10. (TIE) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, profanity

This is the funniest book you’ll ever read about death.

It is a universally acknowledged truth that high school sucks. But on the first day of his senior year, Greg Gaines thinks he’s figured it out. The answer to the basic existential question: How is it possible to exist in a place that sucks so bad? His strategy: remain at the periphery at all times. Keep an insanely low profile. Make mediocre films with the one person who is even sort of his friend, Earl.

This plan works for exactly eight hours. Then Greg’s mom forces him to become friends with a girl who has cancer. This brings about the destruction of Greg’s entire life. – Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams Books

This title is also available as a Libby eBook.

This book was made into a movie in 2015, both in DVD and Blu-ray.

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10. (TIE) This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson
Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, sex education, claimed to be sexually explicit

The bestselling young adult non-fiction book on sexuality and gender!

Lesbian. Gay. Bisexual. Transgender. Queer. Intersex. Straight. Curious. This book is for everyone, regardless of gender or sexual preference. This book is for anyone who’s ever dared to wonder. This book is for YOU.

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.

Inside this revised and updated edition, you’ll find the answers to all the questions you ever wanted to ask, with topics like:
• Stereotypes―the facts and fiction
• Coming out as LGBT
• Where to meet people like you
• The ins and outs of gay sex
• How to flirt
• And so much more!

You will be entertained. You will be informed. But most importantly, you will know that however you identify (or don’t) and whomever you love, you are exceptional. You matter. And so does this book.  – Sourcebooks

This title is also available as a Libby eBook.

This book was first published in 2014 and was then revised, updated, and rereleased in 2021.

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