The banning of books is a practice that has been around for centuries and has all but ended in the 21st Century. From July 2021 to June 2022, PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans lists 2,532 instances of individual books being banned, affecting 1,648 unique book titles. From Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, what many historians consider to be the first book ban in the United States on a national scale, to today's The Hate U Give, books have seen themselves challenged over their supposedly "offensive" material as opposed to celebrated for their willingness to broach controversial topics. So, for you, here's a list of the top 10 books of 2022 that challenge ideologies, break the bounds of conformity, and celebrate the use of free speech because every week is Banned Books Week.
1. Maus by Art Spiegelman
A Tennesee school board in January 2022 unanimously voted to remove Maus from classrooms for its swear words and inappropriate content, including a depiction of a naked character. Disconcerted by this decision, the author Art Spiegelman noted in an interview, "This is disturbing imagery. But you know what? It's disturbing history." A haunting story of survival from Hitler's Europe, Maus explores the author's parents' experience during the Holocaust and represents the Jews and mice and Nazis as cats.
2. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Banned for its sexually explicit content and depiction of child sexual abuse, The Bluest Eye was removed from a California school district's core and extended reading lists during Black History Month. Following uproar from parents as well as national media attention, the school board then reversed its decision. The Bluest Eye tells the story of Pecola Breedlove, an African American girl who grows up in an abusive home after the Great Depression. Equating beauty and societal acceptance with being white, Pecola longs to have “the bluest eye.”
3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Challenged for its “inappropriate language," The Hate U Give was banned in 2017 by school officials in Katy, Texas. The district superintendent removed the book from library shelves, claiming he did so on the account of the book's "pervasive vulgarity and racially-insensitive language...not its substantive content or the viewpoint expressed." Teachers, librarians, and students erupted in uproar, the which attracting media attention. The district eventually relented, returning the book back on the shelves, but students are required to acquire parental permission before checking it out. The novel follows Starr Carter, a black teen dealing with the aftermath of witnessing a police shooting that killed her unarmed friend.
4. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
A patron of an Oregan county library district complained of “talk about the vagina, penis, and sex” in Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl and requested that an edited version replace it. After consideration, the original edition was retained in the children’s, adult, and young adult sections of the library.The novel follows Anne Frank's life during a two-year period of hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam.
5. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
After complaints from parents about the use of racist epithets in To Kill a Mockingbird, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Of Mice and Men, a California school district superintendent removed these titles from required classroom reading lists and banned the use of the N-word in all school classes. The novel serves as a coming-of-age story as well as a darker drama following the trial of a black man for an undeserved rape charge.
6. The Giver by Lois Lowry
Lois Lowry responded to bannings and challenges of The Giver in the 90s with " I think banning books is a very, very dangerous thing. It takes away an important freedom. Any time there is an attempt to ban a book, you should fight it as hard as you can. It's okay for a parent to say, 'I don't want my child to read this book.' But it's not okay for anyone to make that decision for other people. The world portrayed in The Giver is a world where choice has been taken away. It is a frightening world. Let's work hard to keep it from happening." The novel