Most challenged books: what do they say about us?

The American Library Association's 2014 list of most banned books may be indicative of contemporary concerns.

Seth Wenig/AP/File
Far from being disturbed, Sherman Alexie, whose novel "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" was ranked as the most often challenged book of 2014, tweeted that he was proud.

From a novel about a Native American teenager in an all-white school, to a picture book about two male penguins who raise a chick together, to a memoir by a famous sexual assault survivor, the 10 most frequently banned or challenged books of 2014 provide a window into America's cultural anxieties.

The American Library Association released its annual “State of America’s Libraries” report, the highlight (or lowlight?) of which details the books that parents and patrons have most frequently tried to have removed from library shelves.

The most challenged book on the list was "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, a story about a Native American youth with disabilities attending a white high school.

The book has appeared on the list for the past four years, and is frequently challenged as being anti-family, culturally insensitive, and sexually explicit, among other things, the ALA said.

That didn't bother author Alexie, who tweeted the news Monday.

Also on the list was Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel-memoir, "Persepolis," an autobiographical coming-of-age story about life in Iran during the Islamic revolution; "It's Perfectly Normal," a sex-education book that includes cartoon depictions of naked bodies and sexual acts; and "And Tango Makes Three," a picture book about two gay penguins raising a baby.

Popular novels including Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" and Khaled Hosseini's "The Kite Runner," also made the list.

In all, the ALA said it had reports of 311 cases of books getting challenged in schools and public libraries around the country in 2014. These include only formal written complaints, and the number of unreported challenges may in fact be higher. Books get challenged for a myriad of reasons, most often including sex, drug use, homosexual themes, politics and offensive language.

At least one author, Malinda Lo, finds the list concerning.

A significant portion of the books on this year's list feature non-white, gay or otherwise diverse characters, she found in an analysis of the list, as reported by CNN.

"It's clear to me that books that fall outside the white, straight, abled mainstream are challenged more often than books that do not destabilize the status quo," Lo wrote on her website. "This isn't surprising, but the extent to which diverse books are represented on these lists – as a majority – is quite disheartening."

The top 10 most banned and challenged books of 2014:

1. "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian," by Sherman Alexie. Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”

2. "Persepolis," by Marjane Satrapi. Reasons: gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint. Additional reasons: “politically, racially, and socially offensive,” “graphic depictions”

3. "And Tango Makes Three," Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. Reasons: Anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “promotes the homosexual agenda”

4. "The Bluest Eye," by Toni Morrison. Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “contains controversial issues”

5. "It’s Perfectly Normal," by Robie Harris. Reasons: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. Additional reasons: alleged to be "child pornography”

6. "Saga," by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Reasons: Anti-family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group. 

7. "The Kite Runner," by Khaled Hosseini. Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited to age group, violence

8. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," by Stephen Chbosky. Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group. Additional reasons: “date rape and masturbation”

9. "A Stolen Life," Jaycee Dugard. Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group

10. "Drama," by Raina Telgemeier. Reasons: sexually explicit

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