Parents’ demands to remove books from library shelves that address racism skyrocketed in the US in 2020, the American Library Association revealed.
An annual list that is regularly dominated by titles covering LGBTQ + topics, ALA’s 10 Most Challenged Books contain multiple anti-racism titles for the first time in 2020. Although the list was topped for the third year in a row by Alex Gino’s George, The A fourth grade transgender girl’s story, Ibram X Kendi and Jason Reynolds’ Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, a story of racism for children and teens, was the second most challenging title of the year. In their complaints, the parents claimed that Stamped contained “selective storytelling incidents” and “does not encompass racism against all people,” the ALA said.
In response, Kendi, a historian of the breed, said he was proud of the work he and Reynolds had done on the book, and was “not at all surprised” to hear it made the Top 10.
“It is ironic that our book is being challenged as it documents how generations of Americans have challenged the idea that racial groups are equal and have fought to suppress the same truths contained in every page of Stamped. The heartbeat of racism is denial, and the story in Stamped will not be denied, nor will youth access to this book be canceled. ” it said in a statement to the School Library Journal.
The ALA noted to parents of children in a school in New Jersey who sought the removal of Sellado. A teacher resigned after she claimed parents had been harassing her via email and over the phone. After protests by members of two New Jersey library associations, the school retained the book, although no staff member is currently teaching it.
Another book by Reynolds, the current ambassador for youth literature to the United States, ranked third on the ALA list. All American Boys, written with Brendan Kiely and following an act of police brutality towards a young black adolescent, and the white adolescent who witnesses it, was questioned because “it was thought to promote anti-police views,” contained divisive themes and It was “It is too sensitive a matter at the moment,” said the ALA.
The picture book Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice, which follows a black family and a white family after the police shooting of a black man, made the ALA list for the first time for “promot[ing] anti-police points of view ”. In October, the Minnesota Peace and Police Officers Association wrote to the governor of Minnesota ask the state to stop recommending it for elementary schools, saying it “encourages children to fear police officers as unfair, violent and racist.”
Angie Thomas’ award-winning novel The Hate U Give, in which a girl watches a police officer murder her friend, also made the most challenged list for the third time. In 2020, parents questioned him for blasphemy and because “it was thought to promote an anti-police message.”
Three classic novels also feature on the list: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel Speak, which follows a teenage girl after her rape at a high school party, was restricted for containing “a political point of view” and was claimed to be “biased against male students.” said the ALA.
“To claim that a book on surviving sexual assault is biased against male students completely ignores that boys / men / men can be victims. Avoiding discussion about sexual violence generates ignorance, encourages perpetrators and guarantees countless more victims ”. Anderson said in response. “Most of the other books in the Top 10 are censored for discussing racism. It seems that book posters want to cling to systematic racism and rape culture, right? “
According to the ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF), which oversees challenges to books, more than 273 books were questioned or banned in 2020, although most attempts to remove books go unreported.
“Two years ago, eight of the 10 books were challenged over LGBTQ concerns,” Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of OIF, told School Library Journal. “While George remains number one, reflecting the challenges to LGBTQ materials that we constantly see these days, there has been a definite rise in rhetoric challenging anti-racist materials and ideas … We are seeing a shift towards challenging books that They promote racial justice, they discuss racism and America’s history with racism. I think the list reflects the conversations that many people in our country are having right now, and is a reflection of our growing awareness of racial injustice and the history of racial injustice in our country. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism