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ALA’s Annual List of Banned and Challenged Books Caps Out With Captain Underpants

Inside of a dog it's too dark to read


I usually write a post about the American Library Association’s top ten list of the banned, pulled, contested, and challenged books in American libraries every year, because more often than not the list is a lovely illustration of how our society is disproportionately uncomfortable with stories by women and minorities when they actually talk about their experiences as women or minorities.

But this year everything’s pretty equitably awful. In fact, this is the first time since 2008 that male authors on the ALA list have outnumbered their distaff counterparts. Hooray?

Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey.
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
  2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.
    Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher.
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
  6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
    Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
  8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
  9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
  10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

Congratulations to John Green, Jay Asher, E. L. James, and Jeanette Walls on their ALA contested books list debuts! Sherman Alexie, Alvin Schwartz, and Toni Morrison are probably used to this by now, but none so much as Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, whose picture book about two actual male zoo penguins who raised a chick together has been on the list six times in the past seven years. In four of those years, it was number one.

As always, I feel that the most effective response to the ALA’s yearly list is to add as many of these books as possible to your hold list at the library!


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Susana Polo thought she'd get her Creative Writing degree from Oberlin, work a crap job, and fake it until she made it into comics. Instead she stumbled into a great job: founding and running this very website (she's Editor at Large now, very fancy). She's spoken at events like Geek Girl Con, New York Comic Con, and Comic Book City Con, wants to get a Batwoman tattoo and write a graphic novel, and one of her canine teeth is in backwards.