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Report: LGBTQ content drove book banning efforts in 2023

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(NEW YORK) — The American Library Association released its annual list of the top 10 most targeted books of 2023 on Monday, the majority of which were challenges because of their LGBTQ content.

“Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe topped the list for the third year in a row. The graphic memoir, which chronicles the author’s experience with sexuality and gender from childhood to adulthood, was challenged for its LGBTQ content and for claims that it is sexually explicit.

“At ALA, we are fighting for the freedom to choose what you want to read,” said ALA President Emily Drabinski in the announcement. “Shining a light on the harmful workings of these pressure groups is one of the actions we must take to protect our right to read.”

In 2023, the ALA recorded 4,240 unique titles that have been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. It’s a record-breaking 65% increase from 2022, the highest totals recorded by the ALA since it began collecting data more than 20 years ago.

Jennie Pu, ALA member and Hoboken Public Library Director, told ABC News that “this list affirms the pattern that we’re seeing, that it’s a small group of people who don’t want their stories to be told and the retargeting of historically underrepresented and marginalized voices.”

Hoboken’s library system was declared a book sanctuary in 2023.

Across the country, classroom and library content has been at the center of contentious debates between educators, librarians, parents and politicians. Conservative-led legislative efforts to restrict what discussions and content could be had in classrooms regarding race, gender, sex, and sexual orientation has ignited a debate about the materials students and their families have access to.

Advocates of such legislation say these policies ensure that “inappropriate” content is weeded out of classrooms to protect children from “indoctrination,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have said.

Politicized groups or individuals have been at the center of large swaths of book challenges nationwide, sometimes demanding the censorship of multiple titles — often dozens or hundreds at a time. This helped drive the surge in book challenges, according to the ALA.

The other most-targeted titles, in order of the number of challenges, are:

2. “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” by George M. Johnson, for LGBTQ content and claims of sexually explicit content.

3. “This Book is Gay,” by Juno Dawson, for LGBTQ content, sex education, and claims of sexually explicit content.

4. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky, for LGBTQ content, rape, drugs, profanity and claims of sexually explicit content.

5. “Flamer,” by Mike Curato, for LGBTQ content and claims of sexually explicit content.

“The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison
6. “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison, for themes about rape, incest, DEI content and claims of sexually explicit content.

7. “Tricks,” by Ellen Hopkins, for LGBTQ content, themes concerning drugs, rape, and claims of sexually explicit content, tied with “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” by Jesse Andrews for claims of sexually explicit content.

9. “Let’s Talk About It,” by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan, for LGBTQ content, sex education, and claims of sexually explicit content.

10. “Sold,” by Patricia McCormick, for claims of sexually explicit content and themes concerning rape.

The ALA compiles its data from reports filed with its Office for Intellectual Freedom by library professionals and news reports. However, the organization says the data is only a “snapshot” of book censorship attempts because it’s not likely that all attempts are reported to the ALA or covered by the press.

The latest report marks the start of the organization’s National Library Week.

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