As the nation’s culture wars continue in classrooms and libraries, attempts to ban books have reached a record high and LGBTQ-themed titles remain top targets.
in his annual book censorship reportthe American Library Association documented 1,269 challenges to more than 2,500 books in 2022, the most attempted book bans since the association began tracking such efforts in 2001. It was a 75% jump from 2021, which held the previous record .
Of the 13 books that made the ALA’s list of «Most Questioned Books» last year, seven titles, including three of the top four, were questioned for having LGBTQ content, the association found.
Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said the LGBTQ listing «sends a message of exclusion.»
“It’s a way of telling gay and transgender youth that they don’t belong in school, that they don’t belong in the community,” he said. “It sends a message to the LGBTQ community as a whole that they are not considered full citizens with full rights to participate in community institutions like the library.”
The ALA reported that, prior to 2020, the «vast majority» of book challenges were made by people seeking to restrict access to a single book their child was reading. But the group found that 90% of challenges last year were directed at various books and nearly a fifth of them were made by «political/religious groups.»
The association cited this finding as “evidence of a growing, well-organized, conservative political movement whose goals include the removal of books on race, history, gender identity, sexuality, and reproductive health from public and school libraries across the United States.” that do not meet your approval.”
In recent years, conservative lawmakers and activists have rallied to limit the teaching of LGBTQ issues in schools, the display of queer symbolism in classrooms, and the participation of transgender athletes in school sports.
Last week, the Florida Board of Education approved Gov. Ron DeSantis’ request to expand the state’s so-called Don’t Say Gay law, which restricts instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in the state’s public schools, to all grades. Previously, the law only explicitly applied to children in kindergarten through third grade.
Last year’s most challenged book was the award-winning memoir «Gender Queer,» which also topped the ALA’s 2021 Most Banned Books list.
The Illustrated Memoir, which chronicles non-binary author Maia Kobabe’s journey of self-identity, has faced unprecedented pushback from school boards and conservative activists across the country in recent years.
A representative for Kobabe did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.
In an earlier interview with NBC News, Kobabe acknowledged that parts of his memoir may not be appropriate for elementary school children. However, the author said that the simple stories in the book could be used to show readers an experience that grows outside of cisgender and heterosexual norms.
“It’s very hard to hear people say, ‘This book is not appropriate for young people,’ when it’s like I’m a young person for whom this book was not only appropriate, but very, very necessary,” Kobabe said. “There are a lot of people who are questioning their gender, questioning their sexuality, and having a hard time finding honest accounts of someone else on the same journey. There are people for whom this is vital and for whom this could even save their lives.”
Other titles topping the 2022 list include George M. Johnson’s «All Boys Aren’t Blue,» Toni Morrison’s «The Bluest Eye,» Mike Curato’s «Flamer,» John Green’s «Looking for Alaska,» and Perks» by Stephen Chbosky. of being an outcast.»
Caldwell-Stone said the group of books, like all books, should remain on the shelves without «fear or favor.»
“Everyone has the right to find books that reflect their interests, their experiences, their backgrounds, their identities on the shelves of a publicly funded library that is there to serve everyone,” he said.