The Soapbox: Books unite us. Censorship divides us.

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Screen Shot 2017 03 06 at 6.58.40 PMStand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.

In honor of Banned Books Week, September 18 through 24, the Manchester City Library invites you to learn more about ongoing censorship attempts throughout the country.

Book challenges and bans have been increasing dramatically in the past couple of years. According to the American Library Association (ALA), 2021 saw twice as many book challenges as 2020, and the highest number of challenges in 20 years. Although we do not yet have final numbers for 2022, so far the number of book challenges this year is far outpacing 2021. ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to library, school and university materials and services in 2021, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals. The actual number of book challenges is likely much higher, as ALA estimates over 82% of book challenges go unreported.

What books are being challenged?

The ALA reports that most targeted books were by or about Black or LGBTQIA+ persons. Each year, ALA releases a list of the ten most challenged books of the previous year.

Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2021

  1. Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
    Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, and because it was considered to have sexually explicit images
  2. Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  3. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, profanity, and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  4. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
    Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted for depictions of abuse and because it was considered to be sexually explicit
  5. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, violence, and because it was thought to promote an anti-police message and indoctrination of a social agenda
  6. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references and use of a derogatory term
  7. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and degrading to women
  8. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Banned and challenged because it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit
  9. This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson
    Reasons: Banned, challenged, relocated, and restricted for providing sexual education and LGBTQIA+ content.
  10. Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin
    Reasons: Banned and challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.
MCL Banned Book Week
Manchester City Library Banned Book Week 2022 display.

How do libraries choose books for their collections?

Libraries strive to create balanced, relevant collections for all members of their communities. In most public libraries, professional librarians select books based on a list of criteria outlined in the library’s collection development policy, such as: community needs and interests, quality, contemporary significance, and critical reviews. You can view the Manchester City Library’s Collection Policy here. Ultimate responsibility for the titles chosen by the library lies with the Library Director and Board of Trustees. If a member of the community requests reconsideration of any library material or program, the Manchester City Library will follow procedures outlined in our Reconsideration Policy.

The next time you are in the Main library, please visit the Banned Books display by the information desk in the rotunda, where you can browse frequently banned books throughout the years and view infographics on recent book challenge attempts. To learn more about book challenges, censorship, and Banned Books Week, please visit the Banned and Challenged Books website of the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom. Are you looking for a certain banned or challenged book or have specific questions? Please see a librarian at the library information desk.

Beg to differ? Agree to disagree? Your thoughtful commentary/responses are welcome. Send submissions for consideration to, subject line: The Soapbox.


About this Author

Dori Eisenstat

Dori Eisenstat is the Teen Librarian at the Manchester City Library. Prior to coming to Manchester, she worked in several public libraries in Upstate New York serving children, teens, and adults.