As part of its annual report, the American Library Association (ALA) released its list of the most frequently banned and challenged books of 2014. The titles might not surprise people who follow these issues closely, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing new to learn.
Topping the list is Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a work constantly flagged on any number of grounds– for one group it’s blasphemous, for another it’s sex or drug use. As Alexie once told us, some parents voice objections to sexual content that isn’t even in the book.
Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Persepolis ranks #2, a powerful work that most recently made headlines when Chicago Public Schools officials pulled it from classrooms. Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and It’s Perfectly Normal by NCAC board member Robie Harris also make the list, as did Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower — which is the subject of a very controversial challenge in Connecticut.
Sarah Kaplan of the Washington Post writes, “The reasons for challenging books read like a laundry list of America’s cultural anxieties.” Indeed. As the ALA report notes, “Authors of color and books with diverse content are disproportionately challenged and banned.” It goes on to explain that an analysis of the group’s lists from 2000-2013 found that “52% of the books challenged or banned include diverse content.” Of this year’s list, “eight of the ten titles included diverse content.”
This is a development that NCAC’s Kids Right to Read Project (KRRP) noted in 2013; as the Guardian reported, KRRP found that “there are increasing numbers of books being taken off school shelves that deal with race or sexuality or are written by ‘minority’ authors.”
Author Melinda Lo, who did the analysis for the ALA, put it this way:
Diversity is slim throughout all genres of books and across all age groups — except when it comes to book challenges. The message this sends is loud and clear: diversity is actually under attack. Minority perspectives are being silenced every year.