"George" Again Tops List of 10 Most Challenged Books

Alex Gino's George is No. 1 on the list of most challenged books for the second year in a row, as LGBTQIA+ content is once again the top reason cited for challenges.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) released the most challenged books of 2019, and Alex Gino's George was ranked first for the second year in a row. Gino's story of a transgender child had previously made the list at No. 5 (2017) and No. 3 (2016) before topping the list in 2018.

There were other familiar titles in the Top 10, including Drama by Raina Telgemeier, I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, and the entire Harry Potter series. With the exception of J.K. Rowling's beloved books (challenged for their magic, witchcraft, and "actual curses and spells"), these other books have a common thread—and the top reason for challenges—LGBTQIA+ content.

Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which has been the target of many challenges over the years, made the Top 10 for the first time since the lists began with 2001's most challenged. The dystopian novel published in 1985 was "banned and challenged for profanity and for 'vulgarity and sexual overtones,'" according to OIF.

The list is based on information from media stories and voluntary reports sent to OIF from communities across the U.S. The OIF received reports of 377 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services last year, an increase over the 347 the year before. There were 566 targeted, which is 83 more titles than in 2018. These numbers do not give the full picture of censorship attempts in the U.S., however, surveys indicate that anywhere from 82 to 97 percent of book challenges go unreported, according to OIF. 

While the novel coronavirus pandemic has understandably dominated the news for the last couple of months—and it would be logical that the number of challenges would go down as schools and libraries are closed—the virus has not stopped all attempts at censorship. Last week the Matanuska-Susitna (Mat-Su) Borough School District school board in Palmer, AK, voted to remove five books from its reading list for 11th grade English classes: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien.

Below is the complete list of the ALA OIF's Top 10 Challenged Books of 2019, with the reasons they were challenged.

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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