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These were the 10 most challenged books in 2021, according to the American Library Association

Some of the books discuss "LGBTQ+ content" and, according to the ALA, one book was challenged for allegedly promoting "an anti-police message."

CHICAGO — On Monday, the American Library Association (ALA) released its list of the Top 10 most challenged books of 2021.

Every year, the ALA's Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) tracks which books are targeted in libraries, schools and universities and compiles a list of the Top 10 most challenged books. The ALA said the lists are based on information from media stories and voluntary reports sent to the OIF from communities across the country.

The ALA's president told CNN that, in 2021, the organization tracked the highest number of attempted book bans since it began compiling its list of the most challenged books. Last year, the ALA said there were 729 challenges to library, school and university materials and services – up from 156 and 377 challenges reported to the ALA in 2020 and 2019, respectively. 

The ALA also noted that its Top 10 lists are only a snapshot of book challenges as "surveys indicate that 82-97% of book challenges – documented requests to remove materials from schools or libraries – remain unreported and receive no media."

The majority of books included in this year's list were banned, challenged or restricted due to material believed to be sexually explicit. Some of the books discuss "LGBTQ+ content" and, according to the ALA, one book was challenged for allegedly promoting "an anti-police message."

Here's the ALA's top 10 list of 2021's most-challenged books, along with the reasons cited for their censorship according to the ALA:

  1. "Gender Queer" by Maia Kobabe
    Reasons: Banned, challenged and restricted for LGBTQ+ content and because it was considered to have sexually explicit images
  2. "Lawn Boy" by Jonathan Evison
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  3. "All Boys Aren’t Blue" by George M. Johnson
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQ+ content, profanity and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  4. "Out of Darkness" by Ashley Hope Perez
    Reasons: Banned, challenged and restricted for depictions of abuse and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  5. "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, violence and because it was thought to promote an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda
  6. "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references and use of a derogatory term
  7. "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" by Jesse Andrews
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and degrading to women
  8. "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit
  9. "This Book is Gay" by Juno Dawson
    Reasons: Banned, challenged, relocated and restricted for providing sexual education and LGBTQ+ content.
  10. "Beyond Magenta" by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit

The ALA states that a challenge doesn't mean a book is removed from library shelves or classrooms. According to the ALA's Banned Book FAQ, a challenge is an "attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. The ALA says most challenges are unsuccessful.

The new list from the ALA comes amid increased attempts to restrict reading material in states across the U.S., including Texas. 

In October 2021, State Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) initiated an inquiry into books and their availability in Texas public school districts. Six of the books on Krause's list are among the ALA's Top 10 most challenged books of 2021.

Shortly after Krause initiated the inquiry, Gov. Greg Abbott asked the Texas Association of School Boards to determine the extent to which "pornography or other inappropriate content" exists in Texas public schools and to remove it if found.

In December, Williamson County commissioners initially withheld CARES Act funding from Leander and Round Rock ISDs because of certain reading material available to students that was deemed inappropriate. The commissioners later approved funding for the districts.

Also in December, the Llano County Library temporarily shut down for several days as a group of librarians conducted a "thorough review" of every children's book in the library, at the behest of the Llano County Commissioners Court. The librarians were checking to make sure all of the reading material for younger readers included subjects that were age-appropriate.

In February 2022, KVUE reported that a group of students at Vandegrift High School in Leander ISD had formed a "Banned Book Club." That same month, a Bastrop independent book store hosted a banned book giveaway. Students across Texas have also continued to push back against book bans.

KVUE has reached out to the Texas Library Association for a statement about the ALA's Top 10 most challenged books list. This story will be updated when we receive a response.

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