In 2020, more than 273 books were challenged or banned. Demands to remove books addressing racism and racial justice or those that shared the stories of Black, Indigenous, or people of color grew in number. At the same time, books addressing themes and issues of concern for LGBTQIA+ people continued to dominate the list.
This post includes the top 10 most challenged books of 2020, and a description of challenges that were reported in the news in 2020, available in the compiled booklet Field Report 2020: Banned & Challenged Books on the ALA Store.
Slaughterhouse-Five has been subject to banning, challenges and even burning for decades. The American Library Association lists the title in it’s Banned and Challenged Classics page, citing a book burning in North Dakota in 1973 and a variety of bans and challenges due to language, sexual references and even because it “contains and makes references to religious matters.” ALA notes only two instances of retention after the book was challenged.
Discouraging fanfiction isn’t the purpose of this post. There are many benefits to it. Writing fanfiction is an excellent writing exercise and an argument can be made that it creates more interest in the derivative work. However, understanding the role copyright plays is still important to be thoughtful and intentional with your (repurposed) art.
This Supreme Court decision, DeRay Mckesson v. John Doe, is not just a win for the Black Lives Matter movement but for free speech and First Amendment rights across the board.
This Executive Order is not only censorship but extortion too. The Federal Government is censoring intellectual ideas and curriculum to continue its endemic ignorance of racism in this country. It is intimidating organizations addressing racism by withholding funds by threatening sanctions and debarment.
ALA focuses on the books of Banned Books Week. Amnesty International focuses on people.
“Cancel culture” is becoming synonymous with fragility. Pundits increasingly resent when racial, cultural and sexual norms are enforced in public. They bemoan cancel culture as a form of censorship, despite the fact that no one has actually been “cancelled.” They grieve the loss of free speech when they’re merely being taught a lesson: there is currency in our words and the price paid is accountability.
Harry Potter is one of the most frequently banned series. J.K. Rowling doesn’t understand that when she silences the real, lived experiences of trans people, she is banning a narrative that is not only crucial to the feminist and social justice movement but to humanity as well.
The problem is not corporate censorship, it’s the idea that we can find all the reliable information we need on the internet with no guidelines or knowledge how to vet information or discriminate fact from fraud. Censorship becomes an issue when government entities start to take part – and this is why eliminating censorship within the construct of libraries is so important.
Child sex abuse is a serious problem but how do we talk to kids about it? How do we give children the tools and language to understand how to reach out if they are victims or if they know someone who is? There is no easy answer. One way that author Tony Abbot chose was the route of storytelling. Sharing stories can provide both a mirror and a window.