According to PEN America, more than 670 books on LGBTQ+ topics were banned in US schools in the 2021-2022 school year. (unsplash)
Almost half of the books banned in US schools last year contained LGBTQ+ themes or characters.
A new report has detailed the top banned books of the 2021-22 school year more than 2,532 cases of individual book bans.
Maia Kobabe’s memoirs Gender Queerabout growing up nonbinary and asexual, was the top-banned book targeted by 41 school districts between July 2021 and June 2022.
“This heartfelt graphic memoir tells the story of growing up gender non-conforming with sometimes painful honesty,” says Publishers Weekly of the title.
In the second was another queer treatise, All boys are not blue by George M Johnson. Other targeted LGBTQ+ titles included Melissa by Alex Gino and Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin were among those Most banned books with LGBTQ+ themes.
The list is an update of a list published in April that covered the first nine months of the school year.
The research found that 41 percent of the books were banned simply because they featured people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community or explicitly addressed queer issues. This included a specific subset of titles for transgender characters or stories — amounting to 145 titles, or nine percent of the books banned last school year.
Many of the books targeted (40 percent) contained a colored character, and another 21 percent dealt directly with issues such as race and racism.
PEN America said the “dramatic expansion of the book ban” was the result of the “proliferation of organized efforts to advocate for the removal of books.”
This affected 1,648 individual titles in 5,049 schools with approximately 4 million students in the US.
The report identified at least 50 groups actively advocating book bans in US schools – with the vast majority, 73 percent, appearing to have formed since 2021.
These parent and community groups played a role in at least half of the book bans issued in the 2021-2022 school year, according to PEN America.
Suzanne Nossel, Managing Director of PEN America, said The report shows that the recent wave of bans “represents a coordinated campaign to ban books” carried out by “sophisticated, ideological and well-resourced advocacy groups”.
“This censorship movement is turning our public schools into political battlefields, driving wedges into communities, forcing teachers and librarians from their jobs, and belying the spirit of open inquiry and intellectual freedom that underpins a thriving democracy,” Nossel said.
PEN America estimates that at least 40 percent of the bans (1,109 bans in total) are related to proposed or enacted legislation or pressure from politicians to restrict the teaching of certain subjects in the United States.
Texas has banned more books from school libraries than any other state, the data showed, with 801 books being pulled from shelves in 22 school districts.
Last October, Republican State Representative Matt Krause launched a concerted effort to crack down on inclusive literature in Texas.
Krause compiled a list of 850 books on topics that could range from gender identity and sexuality to racism “Make students uncomfortable”. He urged school districts to investigate and report on what titles they held in libraries and classrooms.
The move came as trans youth and their families were being targeted by Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott and other conservative politicians in the state. Countless LGBTQ+ groups and advocates have denounced this intrusive investigations into child abuse. into the supportive families of trans children as directed by Abbott.
The Republican governor’s efforts to eradicate trans children led to a heated legal battle made it to the state Supreme Court.
A Texas judge expanded a nationwide injunction on Sept. 16 to protect members of LGBTQ+ advocacy group PFLAG Inc. from damaging investigations by state officials. The group has more than 600 members in Texas, so the move was a huge legal win for families of LGBTQ+ youth.
Not surprisingly, Florida was only slightly behind Texas with 566 bans in 21 school districts. Fiercely anti-LGBTQ+ Governor Ron DeSantis signed the state treaties Don’t Say Gay law enacted in Marchdirectly targeting LGBTQ+ education in Florida schools.
“This rapidly accelerating movement has caused increasing numbers of students to lose access to literature that empowers them to meet the challenges and complexities of democratic citizenship,” said Jonathan Friedman, one of the lead authors of the PEN America report.
Friedman continued, “The work of groups organizing and advocating for banning books in schools is particularly damaging to students from historically marginalized backgrounds, who are forced to experience life-validating stories off classrooms and library shelves disappear.”