The Censorship is Real: Top 10 Banned & Most Challenged Books in U.S. Schools

Another year with more books banned. Books are under a great deal of scrutiny in 2023 and are getting challenged by parents and organizations left, right, and center.

More Book Banning Than Ever Before

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Individual books would get put up for debate by concerned parents or staff, and school boards would decide whether the book should be banned. However, recent trends show a shift in how books are banned.

Now, instead of a specific book or two getting challenged, entire swaths of books are getting pulled off the shelves. The focus seems to be primarily on filtering out LGBTQ+ topics or works that discuss race.

Among The Banned Books

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According to PEN America, a New York based non-profit that tracks censorship across the country, 41% of banned books feature protagonists or prominent secondary characters who are LGBTQ+ while 40% contain protagonists or prominent characters of color.

States Doing The Most Banning

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The main states banning books by the droves? Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah, and South Carolina.

The following is a list of the top ten banned and challenged books in 2023.

10. (tie) This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson (48 challenges)

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Like the title implies, This Book Is Gay is an informative, non-fiction book that convers various aspects of life as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s comprised of interviews, stories, and more from LGBTQ+ kids, teens, and adults. Claimed to be sexually explicit, This Book Is Gay has been removed from schools across the country.

10. (tie) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (48 challenges)

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Death, drugs, and s*x are central to this book’s controversy. Friends Earl and Greg befriend a cancer patient—Rachel. Described as the “funniest book you’ll ever read about death,” its contents made it a popular target for book banners.

10. (tie) Crank by Ellen Hopkins (48 challenges)

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Crank tells the story of “perfect” daughter Kristina Snow. It is the first in a trilogy of the same name and relays Kristina’s struggle with drugs and addiction. The book has been banned because of its coverage of drug use. It is also claimed to be sexually explicit.

10. (tie) A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (48 challenges)

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A Court of Mist and Fury is the second installment in the A Court of Thorn and Roses series. The book was challenged because of its sexually explicit content.

In Virginia, Tim Anderson (a Republican lawyer) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Congress hopeful Tommy Altman. Despite Altman’s campaign centering on freedom of speech, he sued (and lost) Barnes and Noble in an attempt to end sales of the book.

9. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez (50 challenges)

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A forbidden love story between a Mexican-American girl and a Black boy, Out of Darkness takes place in the 1930s. Parents fought to ban the book due to the racism experienced by the protagonists, as well as alleged sexually explicit content.

8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (52 challenges)

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A semi-autobiographical take on the author’s life, this book found itself on the banned list across the country due to its coverage of topics like poverty, sexuality, alcohol, and bullying as well as its use of slurs and profanity.

7. Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison (54 challenges)

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Evison’s autobiographical novel follows the story of a boy overcoming hardships. When it was published, the author received death threats. Parents have challenged the book with claims that it contains h*moerotic content because one of the characters recalls a same-sex encounter.

5. (tie) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (55 challenges)

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A coming-of-age tale surrounding the life of Charlie, a quiet high schooler who has no friends, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was challenged due to its depiction of sexual abuse, LGBTQ+ content, drug use, profanity, and alleged sexually explicit content.

5. (tie) Looking for Alaska by John Green (55 challenges)

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A coming-of-age story that follows Miles Halter as he navigates boarding school and a wild friendship with Alaska Young. The book has been challenged due to its LGBTQ+ content and sexually explicit nature.

4. Flamer by Mike Curato (62 challenges)

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Written in 2020, Flamer is a semi-autobiographical graphic novel depicting Mike Curato’s life. He writes about his experience growing up gay and Catholic in a time when the church did not accept homosexuality. The book has been challenged due to alleged sexually explicit content and its LGBTQ+ content.

3. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (73 challenges)

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A 1970 novel that deals with the harm of Euro-centric beauty standards, the book has been banned due to its subject matter being deemed inappropriate. It covers topics of child molestation, sexual assault, and racism, among others—earning it the number three spot.

2. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (86 challenges)

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Part memoir, part declaration, All Boys Aren’t Blue is a series of essays written by nonbinary author and queer activist George M. Johnson. The author shares their experience growing up Black and queer in New Jersey. With its accounts of sex, m*sturbation, and its use of profanity, it is the second most banned book in the United States.

1. Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe (151 Challenges)

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The number one spot for most banned books goes to Gender Queer: A Memoir. An autobiographical comic, Kobabe details the struggles of gender identity and coming out. LGBTQ+ content, along with claims of sexual explicitness, earned this book the top spot.

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This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching. Source.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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