ALA lists the 10 books with the most com­plaints

The China Post - - LIFE - BY HIL­LEL ITALIE

It turns out at least one part of pub­lish­ing has a di­verse slate of au­thors: The books most likely to be pulled from school and li­brary shelves.

The Amer­i­can Li­brary As­so­ci­a­tion (ALA) on Mon­day re­leased its an­nual list of the 10 books re­ceiv­ing the most com­plaints from par­ents, ed­u­ca­tors and oth­ers in the lo­cal com­mu­nity. Sher­man Alexie’s prize-win­ning, au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal novel of school life, “The Ab­so­lutely True Di­ary of a Part-Time In­dian,” ranked No. 1, fol­lowed by Mar­jane Sa­trapi’s graphic novel “Perse­po­lis” and the pic­ture book about two male pen­guins rais­ing a baby pen­guin, Peter Par­nell’s and Justin Richard­son’s “And Tango Makes Three.”

Oth­ers on the list in­clude Toni Mor­ri­son’s de­but novel, “The Bluest Eye”; Khaled Hos­seini’s mil­lion- sell­ing novel “The Kite Run­ner” and Jaycee Du­gard’s best- sell­ing mem­oir about her kid­nap­ping, “A Stolen Life.”

The re­main­ing books cited by the li­brary as­so­ci­a­tion were Ro­bie Har­ris’ “It’s Per­fectly Nor­mal”; “Saga,” by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Sta­ples; Stephen Ch­bosky’s “The Perks of Be­ing a Wallflower”; and Raina Tel­ge­meier’s “Drama.”

Sev­eral of the au­thors listed were ei­ther non- whites, even though just a small per­cent­age of books re­leased each year are by non-whites, or writ­ers of books with gay, les­bian or trans­gen­der themes. Ac­cord­ing to a study com­piled last fall by the web site Di­ver­sity in YA, which ad­vo­cates di­ver­sity in young adult lit­er­a­ture, around 20 per­cent of books that ap­peared on the li­brary as­so­ci­a­tion’s chal­lenged books list since 2000 have been by non-white au­thors. Over half of the books in­cluded con­tent about non-whites, non-het­ero­sex­u­als or dis­abled peo­ple.

“Di­ver­sity is slim through­out all gen­res of books and across all age groups — ex­cept when it comes to book chal­lenges,” wrote the re­port’s au­thor, Malinda Lo, her­self a young adult nov­el­ist.

Rea­sons for books be­ing chal­lenged ranged from “cul­tural in­sen­si­tiv­ity” in Alexie’s novel, in which the au­thor draws upon his ex­pe­ri­ences as an Amer­i­can In­dian at a vir­tu­ally all- white high school; to “pro­motes the ho­mo­sex­ual agenda” in “And Tango Makes Three.” Com­mon com­plaints in­clude ex­plicit sex, vi­o­lence, ref­er­ences to drugs and al­co­hols and of­fen­sive lan­guage.

The “Harry Pot­ter” nov­els were fre­quent tar­gets a decade ago and the “Twi­light” and “The Hunger Games” se­ries also be­gan ap­pear­ing on the ALA re­ports as their pop­u­lar­ity surged. Older books that have been fre­quently chal­lenged in­clude “The Bluest Eye,” Maya An­gelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mock­ing­bird.”

The li­brary as­so­ci­a­tion de­fines a chal­lenge as a “for­mal, writ­ten com­plaint filed with a li­brary or school re­quest­ing that a book or other ma­te­rial be re­stricted or re­moved be­cause of its con­tent or ap­pro­pri­ate­ness.” The ALA counted 311 chal­lenges last year, roughly the same as last year and well be­low the lev­els of the 1980s and ’90s, when the rise of the Moral Ma­jor­ity led to wide­spread ef­forts to have books pulled.

Bar­bara Jones, direc­tor of the li­brary as­so­ci­a­tion’s Of­fice for In­tel­lec­tual Free­dom, told The As­so­ci­ated Press that the ALA has long be­lieved that for ev­ery com­plaint reg­is­tered, four to five go un­re­ported by li­braries and that some li­brar­i­ans may re­strict ac­cess in an­tic­i­pa­tion of ob­jec­tions.

The list is based on press ac­counts and re­ports from li­brar­i­ans, teach­ers and “con­cerned in­di­vid­u­als.” The ALA does not have pre­cise num­bers for books ac­tu­ally censored, but notes sev­eral in­ci­dents in 2014, in­clud­ing the re­moval of Alexie’s novel from some schools in Idaho.

The chal­lenged books list is part of the ALA’s 2015 State of Amer­ica’s Li­braries Re­port.

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