This week, the national reading community celebrates “Banned Books Week.” Established in 1982 in response to a sudden increase in challenges to books in schools, Banned Books Week is a celebration of our freedom to read as well as the diverse writers who challenge, provoke and even offend us.
Here is a list of the most challenged books in libraries, schools and bookstores for the year 2014:
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
This novel explores race and identity by focusing on a young cartoonist who leaves his reservation school to attend an all-white high school whose mascot happens to be an Indian. It’s been challenged for its explicit language, depictions of sexuality and bullying.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
This autobiographical graphic novel has received much acclaim for humanizing Iran for western audiences, and was turned into an animated film in 2007. It is often challenged for its depictions of the torture of Iranian dissidents.
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
This picture book tells the story of two penguins unable to conceive who raise a neglected egg as their own. Why the controversy? Roy and Silo are both dads!
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Morrison’s classic novel deals with internalized racism during the Great Depression. It is controversial for its exploration of racism as well as child abuse.
It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health by Robie Harris
A guide to puberty for children narrated by a cartoon bird and bee (get it?). Many people find the illustrations of naked bodies offensive, but if you’re on board it’s much less terrifying than those educational videos they show in gym class.
Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
This graphic novel follows two alien soldiers who abandon their war to start a family together. It has been challenged for being “anti-family,” which is ironic because family is such a strong theme in the book. Maybe they’re just against people with horns marrying people with wings?
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
This coming of age story set in Afghanistan has been challenged for “desensitizing students to violence.”
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Chbosky’s book has been challenged since its publication for its depictions of teenage depression, yet has still struck a chord with young readers and was turned into a film in 2012. Visit the Banned Books Week website to read testimonies from students who have literally had the book taken away from them while they were reading it!
A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee Dugard
Trigger warning: This book deals with the author’s experience of being kidnapped as a child. It is frequently challenged for the upsetting nature of this story.
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Teenagers! Kissing! Unsupervised! Telgemeier’s light-hearted graphic novel has been challenged for its focus on teenage relationships as well as its homosexual themes.