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  • Rebecca Nagel

Top five most banned books of 2022

By: Rebecca Nagel, Assistant Multimedia Director

Banned Books Week 2023 is set to take place the week of Oct. 1 to 7. In honor of Banned Books Week, I would like to discuss and analyze the American Library Association’s list of the five most challenged books of 2022, giving explanations of the reasons behind the bans on these books.

We start with the most challenged book of 2022: “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe takes the top spot. This popular graphic novel’s place in libraries challenged it due to its LGBTQIA+ and sexually explicit content. As a nonfiction adult graphic novel (based on how the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library (BECPL) categorizes it), banning this book seems to be more of an act of homophobia and transphobia than a move to protect children. “Gender Queer” is an educational book about queer identities, but is also a narrative of self-discovery. This being said, banning a book like “Gender Queer” erases important media within and about the LGBTQIA+ community.

The book taking second place in the most challenged books of 2022 is “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson. This memoir was also challenged due to LGBTQIA+ content and was deemed sexually explicit by oppositionists. “All Boys Aren’t Blue” is a series of personal essays where Johnson explores his childhood memories of bullying and exploring his identity. This is yet another adult nonfiction book, meaning that it is already out of the hands of children, so parents banning this book is more performative than helpful, regardless of their stance on LGBTQIA+ issues. Important topics discussed including toxic masculinity, gender identity and family struggles are in jeopardy of being disregarded when this book is removed from shelves.

Taking third place, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison was challenged for heavier topics including rape, incest and sexual explicitness. The book also features an abundance of EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) content. The BECPL system has one copy of this book, located at the Merriweather Branch Library. Under this library, Morrison’s book is listed as adult fiction. One of the main justifications from the book challengers is the supposed protection of their children.

The fourth place for the most challenged book goes to “Flamer” by Mike Curato. This book was challenged due to LGBTQIA+ and sexually explicit content. The BECPL system has this book categorized as a young adult graphic novel, meaning that it wasn’t written for young children. Young adult books are often compared to PG-13 movies because they contain subtle hints of mature themes without delving into explicit details, as is more common in adult literature. So my question is, why are parents raising concerns about protecting children when the readers of these books are primarily teenagers and young adults, who are likely already familiar with these topics?

Lastly, the fifth-place book for most challenged books of 2022 is a tie between two books. One book, “Looking For Alaska” by John Green, was challenged due to LGBTQIA+ and sexually explicit content. The other book, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, was challenged due to LGBTQIA+ content, rape, drugs and profanity and the claim that it is sexually explicit. Both of these books are listed as young adult fiction in the BECPL system, meaning that all six of the most challenged books were not written for young children.

The differentiation between juvenile and young adult books is clearly a touchy subject for parents. While I do believe that a 6-year-old shouldn’t be reading explicit content, a 12-year-old (the youngest age recommended for young adult literature) should be exposed to some of this media: even if a specific 12-year-old is unaware of certain themes, reading about them is a great way to start discussions and educate youth on the world around them.

The recurring themes of LGBTQIA+ and sexually explicit content being challenged in young adult and adult content shows the lack of open-mindedness of the people challenging these books. The American Library Association also shows that the number of book challenges nearly doubled from 2021 with 2,571 reports in 2022. It seems that this is less of a parenting issue and more of a homophobic and transphobic issue. Overall, banning books causes problems of inclusivity and diversity in libraries, because the lack of books and other media with representation leads to even less acceptance in the world.

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