Books about racism and sexuality still getting censored in the US

‘Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You’ by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds is one of the most frequently censored books in US public reading institutions in 2020. — AFP pic
‘Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You’ by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds is one of the most frequently censored books in US public reading institutions in 2020. — AFP pic

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NEW YORK, April 8 — Are schools and libraries in the United States protected from censorship? Not according to the American Library Association. The association unveiled a list of the most frequently challenged books in public reading institutions in 2020. Many of them deal with issues such as racism and gender identity.

If you go to a school library in the United States, chances are you won't find Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird or Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak. And there's a reason: these novels are among the 273 most frequently challenged, even censored, books in public and school libraries across the country. They are often removed from the shelves at the request of parents (50 per cent of cases), but also of public institution users (20 per cent) and boards of directors (11 per cent), according to data from the American Library Association (ALA). 

In addition, the ALA rankings contain many titles that address themes related to sexuality and the LGBTQI+ community. George by Alex Gino is one of them. This children's book is about the struggle of George, a 10-year-old transgender child who wants to participate in his school's year-end pageant by playing the character of Charlotte's spider. A role that he cannot aspire to according to his teachers because it is reserved for "girls." Note that this is the third year in a row that this novel by Alex Gino has topped the ALA list. 

Books about antiracism increasingly challenged

While the US organisation has noted for decades that books related to sexualities are often censored in US reading establishments, for the first time it has observed the significant presence of books on antiracism and racial discrimination. Among them are Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazzard, and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. In an interview with School Library Journal, historian Ibrahim X. Kendi said he was "not at all surprised" to learn that his work was included in the ALA rankings.

"It is ironic that our book is being challenged since it documents how generations of Americans have challenged the idea that the racial groups are equals and have fought to suppress the very truths contained on every page of Stamped. The heartbeat of racism is denial, and the history in Stamped will not be denied, nor will young people's access to this book be canceled," he added. 

These are the top 10 most censored books in US public reading institutions in 2020 below:

1. George by Alex Gino

2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds

3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds et Brendan Kiely

4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin

7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas — ETX Studio

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