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ALA: Number of unique book titles challenged jumped nearly 40% in 2022

Meghan Collins Sullivan
/
NPR

The number of reported challenges to books doubled in 2022 — and the number of challenges to unique titles was up nearly 40 percent over 2021 — according to data released by the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom Monday.

Each year the ALA releases data on books it says have been most often challenged for removal from public and school library shelves. Though the group says it's not possible to track every challenge, and that many go unreported, the data come through a variety of sources, including news stories and voluntary reports sent to the Office of Intellectual Freedom.

This year's report includes an expanded list of the 13 books most challenged in 2022, as there were the same number of banning efforts against several of the books. Overall, the ALA says that 2,571 unique titles were banned or challenged.

Lessa Kananiʻopua Pelayo-Lozada, president of the American Library Association, says it used to be that titles were challenged when a parent or other community member saw a book in the library they didn't like. But times have changed: "Now we're seeing organized attempts by groups to censor multiple titles throughout the country without actually having read many of these books."

Pelayo-Lozada says that despite the high challenge numbers, a library association poll shows a large majority of Americans don't believe in banning books.

Once again this year, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, published in 2019, tops the ALA's list. The graphic memoir follows Kobabe's path to gender-identity as nonbinary and queer. Most of the books on the list have been challenged with claims of including LGBTQIA+ or sexually explicit content.

There are a handful of titles on the list this year that are new from 2021, including Flamer by Mike Curato, Looking for Alaska by John Green, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, and Crank by Ellen Hopkins.

Eight of the titles have remained on the list for multiple years.

Most Challenged Books of 2022

Here are the books the ALA tracked as most challenged in 2022 (there was a 4-way tie for #10):

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

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

3. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison — rape, incest, claimed to be sexually explicit, EDI content

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

5. Looking for Alaska by John Green — claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky — claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content, rape, drugs, profanity

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

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

9. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez— claimed to be sexually explicit

10. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews — claimed to be sexually explicit, profanity

10. This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson — LGBTQIA+ content, sex education, claimed to be sexually explicit

10. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas — claimed to be sexually explicit

10. Crank by Ellen Hopkins — claimed to be sexually explicit, drugs

Matilda Wilson reported the audio version of this story.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: April 24, 2023 at 11:00 PM CDT
In an earlier version of this story, Stephen Chbosky's name was misspelled. It has been corrected here.
Meghan Collins Sullivan is a senior editor on the Arts & Culture Desk, overseeing non-fiction books coverage at NPR. She has worked at NPR over the last 13 years in various capacities, including as the supervising editor for NPR.org – managing a team of online producers and reporters and editing multi-platform news coverage. She was also lead editor for the 13.7: Cosmos and Culture blog, written by five scientists on topics related to the intersection of science and culture.
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