But a great deal of the most frequently challenged books of the last decade center around LGBTQ characters and themes, an analysis from the American Library Association revealed.
Others range from classics like “The Color Purple,” which features a lesbian relationship, to contemporary comics aimed at grade schoolers like “Sex is a Funny Word.”
Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, told CNN that her office has seen a “growing trend” of censoring books that prominently feature LGBTQ characters.
“There are members of every community that need and wanted these resources, that want to find themselves reflected in their library’s collections and programs,” she said. “This allows them to understand themselves in the world and affirm their identity.”
The dangers of censoring LGBTQ stories
“Framing a book that features LGBTQ characters as ‘controversial’ places the onus of conflict on LGBTQ people,” he wrote. “There is nothing controversial or problematic about being a member of the LGBTQ community.”
Books about diverse experiences are beneficial for every reader, Caldwell-Stone said.
“Books, novels, true stories and memoirs are ways of developing empathy for other people and their lives,” she said. “If we take that away from young people, we’re really depriving them of opportunities to develop as individuals, to understand the world.”
The number of frequently challenged LGBTQ books, though, also signals that books with these themes and characters are being published more frequently and read more widely.
But if a book is censored by school officials, it’s almost impossible for a librarian or teacher to get that book into a student’s hands, Caldwell-Stone said. That’s why Banned Books Week focuses on advocacy, too, and features talks with authors on access to literature.
Caldwell-Stone said it’s necessary to champion the inclusion of diverse books in collections, even if those books don’t align with one’s personal views, “so that everyone can find what they need in the library.”