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More than half of banned books challenged for LGBTQ content

The American Library Association noted there’s a “greater number of challenges” to LGBTQ books — "especially those with transgender characters."
Image: \"George,\" by Alex Gino; \"Two Boys Kissing\" by David Levithan; and \"Drama\" by Raina Telgemeier.
"George," by Alex Gino; "Two Boys Kissing" by David Levithan; and "Drama" by Raina Telgemeier.Scholastic Press / Knopf Books / Graphix

More than half of the top 11 most frequently challenged and banned books of 2018 include LGBTQ content, according to a report released Monday by the American Library Association.

“Books for youth with LGBTIQ+ content are consistently on our list of most challenged books; this trend goes back to the mid-1990’s, when Nancy Garden’s ‘Annie on my Mind’ was banned by a school board in Texas,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, interim director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, said in a statement. “That said, we are noticing a greater number of challenges to books with LGBTIQ+ content, especially those that have transgender characters and themes.”

In 2017, four of the top 10 banned books were challenged for LGBTQ content, and in 2016, five were challenged for this reason.

"George," a coming-of-age story by Alex Gino, topped this year's list. The award-winning, young-adult novel is about a transgender girl coming to terms with her gender identity. This is the third consecutive year "George" made the ALA's "Most Challenged Books" list, which is part of the association's annual “State of America’s Libraries Report."

According to the report, "George" has been repeatedly "banned, challenged, and relocated" because it's "believed to encourage children to clear browser history and change their bodies using hormones." The ALA also noted there were complaints about the book for "mentioning 'dirty magazines,' describing male anatomy, 'creating confusion,' and including a transgender character."

"A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo," John Oliver's parody book about Vice President Mike Pence's fictional pet gay rabbit, came in second on the list. Written by Jill Twiss, a staff writer on Oliver’s "Last Week Tonight" show, the bestselling kids book is a parody of “Marlon Bundo's Day in the Life of the Vice President,” authored by Pence’s daughter, Charlotte.

Charlotte Pence has revealed that she purchased a copy of the parody book, noting that all proceeds are donated to The Trevor Project and AIDS United. Though neither she nor her father have publicly objected to "A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo," others have banned and challenged the book "for including LGBTQIA+ content, and for political and religious viewpoints," according to the ALA.

Other books on this year's top 11 list that were challenged or banned due to LGBTQ content include the “Captain Underpants” series, "Drama," "This Day in June" and "Two Boys Kissing."

The American Library Association usually releases a top 10 list of banned books, but selected 11 this year after two titles were tied for the list's final position. “This Day in June” and “Two Boys Kissing” were not only tied for 10th place on the list, but both books were also burned by a religious activist protesting a pride event in Orange City, Iowa, last December.

The ALA noted in its report that the book burning is part of a “worrisome trend” of employing “extreme tactics” in an attempt to censor information and ideas.

“These tactics range from an actual book burning in Iowa that targeted LGBTQIA+ books to lawsuits filed to halt libraries’ drag queen story hours and to end community access to curated and authoritative research databases,” the ALA wrote.

The five other books that made it into the top 11 are: “The Hate U Give,” which was "challenged because it was deemed 'anti-cop'"; "Thirteen Reasons Why," for "addressing teen suicide": "This One Summer" for "profanity, sexual references, and certain illustrations"; the "Skippyjon Jones" series for "depicting stereotypes of Mexican culture"; and "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" for "sexual references, profanity, violence, gambling, and underage drinking, and for its religious viewpoint."

Though the ALA tracked 483 books that were challenged or banned this year in public libraries or schools, it noted that many challenges and bans go unreported.

“The good news in all of this is that there are good people willing to defend the freedom to read,” Stone said. “More than 200 books were donated to Orange City library in the wake of the book burning, and thousands of dollars were raised to replace library books.”

The release of the ALA's banned books list coincides with National Library Week, which is from April 7-13.