7:00 pm EDT, April 12, 2018

The top 10 most challenged books of 2017 reveals a deep fear of reality

By Karen Rought | Edited by Brandi Delhagen

Just like any other year, 2017 saw hundreds of requests for books to be removed from school and public libraries. Here are the top 10 most challenged books.

The American Library Association (ALA) shares a report from The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom, which counted 354 challenges and a total of 416 targeted books.

The top 10 most challenged books of 2017 are below, along with a brief description of the reasons why these books were targeted.

  1. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
    Reason: Suicide

  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Profanity, Sexually Explicit

  3. Drama, written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    Reason: LGBT Content

  4. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
    Reasons: Sexual Violence, Religious Themes, “May Lead to Terrorism”

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  5. George, by Alex Gino
    Reason: LGBT Content

  6. Sex is a Funny Word, written by Cory Silverberg and illustrated by Fiona Smyth
    Reason: Sex Education

  7. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
    Reasons: Violence, Racial Slurs.

  8. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
    Reasons: Drug Use, Profanity, “Pervasively Vulgar”

  9. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole
    Reason: LGBT Content

  10. I Am Jazz, written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    Reason: Gender Identity

Four of the 10 books above were cited for LGBT content/gender identity, three of them for sexual content, four because of violence or profanity, and one for suicide/mental illness.

There is nothing here that isn’t a part of everyday life. I understand that parents may wish to talk with their children about these various topics on their own terms, and that is their right. However, it is something else altogether to try to remove these books from libraries, thereby taking them away from people — children and adults alike — who may need these kinds of books in their lives.

The ALA mentions that these challenges are “direct attacks on the freedom to read,” and this is absolutely true. But more than that, it shows how we, as a society, have a deep fear of reality. People in the LGBTQ+ community exist. For most people, sex is a natural part of life. Unfortunately, so is violence. And mental illness affects many people across the board.

Getting rid of these books will not change those facts. In fact, getting rid of these books could be detrimental to those who find themselves in these situations. Without an outlet, without an understanding that other people have gone through what they’re going through, kids, adolescents, and even adults might feel isolated. And isolation in these kinds of situations rarely leads to anything good.

If Black Panther, Love, Simon, Wonder Woman, and A Wrinkle in Time have taught us anything, it’s that groups who are tired of being underrepresented in media are a force to be reckoned with. These books are important to those who relate to the characters in these stories, and it’s necessary that they stay on library shelves so they can continue to help those who are struggling with their sexuality, with violence, with mental illness, or with any number of other issues.

We shouldn’t be afraid of the reality of this world. We should embrace it and, when necessary, find a way to combat it. Trying to remove these books from libraries is not the real problem here. The real problem is that so many people are still unwilling to accept the fact that the world is a diverse place because it challenges their worldviews in uncomfortable ways.

Instead, this diversity should make the world appear more colorful, interesting, and unique. And it does — if you let it.

Have you read any of these top 10 most challenged books of 2017?

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