Last year, schools and libraries around the country fielded dozens of challenges yet again from individuals determined to shape their community’s values by banning certain books.

Thanks to the American Library Association (ALA)’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, we can keep our eye on which values those individuals consider too dangerous to be seen, as all the top hot-button topics that offend a loud minority of parents will inevitably rise to the top.

First place on the top ten list for 2020 — which is the most recent year for which the ALA has data — has now sat as the number one most challenged book for three years running. It’s the Lambda Literary Award-winning and recently retitled children’s book Melissa, by Alex Gino.

The book features a transgender child, and thanks to the rapid rise of transphobia in the US in recent years (2021 saw both the most anti-trans bills passed in one year as well as the most transgender homicides), the title will likely stay at the top position for years to come.

One big upset in the 2020 data is the absence of A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, written by Jill Twiss and illustrated by EG Keller. The title had placed among the top three most challenged books on the list for 2018 and 2019, making 2020 the first year since the book’s release that it didn’t reach the top ten most controversial titles. But that’s not too surprising, given that the main character is a fictionalized version of former Vice President of the United States Mike Pence’s pet rabbit. Now that a new presidential administration has taken office, the book’s relevance seems to have dropped significantly.

Moving up on the list, however, are two classics of literature. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is at number seven on the 2020 list, which marks the title’s first appearance on the annual list since 2017.


Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is right below Mockingbird at number eight, which is the first time Steinbeck’s novel has appeared on the list since all the way back in 2004.

Here’s the full list of the top ten most challenged books of 2020, along with the specific reasons the ALA has cited for why those titles were challenged in across the past year.

1) Melissa by Alex Gino

Reasons: Challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community”

2) Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds

Reasons: Banned and challenged because of author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people

3) All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now”

4) Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Reasons: Banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity

5) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author

6) Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin

Reasons: Challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views

7) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience

8) Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Reasons: Banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students

9) The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Reasons: Banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse

10) The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Reasons: Challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message

Source: Forbes

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