Book bans are nothing new.

According to Harvard University, the first book ban in the United States took place in 1637 in Massachusetts. “New English Canaan,” by Thomas Morton, was banned by the Puritan government as it was considered a harsh critique of Puritan customs and power structures.

Today, the American Library Association fights against censorship and works to defend each person’s right to read under the First Amendment and ensure free access to information.

To celebrate the “forbidden” novels, Banned Books Week, which starts Sunday, celebrates the freedom to read and spotlights current and historical attempts of censorship.

Alyssa Hoy, one of the students who created Vandegrift High School’s banned-book club, listens to another member discuss “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Pérez.

Some books that have been targets of book ban attempts include the “Captain Underpants” series, the “Hunger Games” series, the “Goosebump” series, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Color Purple,” the “Harry Potter” series and “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

For more than four decades, the annual event features the top 10 books that were banned the previous year, according to data gathered by the organization.

While many book challenges are not always reported to the ALA, the lists and data represent a snapshot of the defiances.

Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31, 2023, the organization’s Office for Intellectual Freedom reported 695 attempts to censor library materials and services and documented challenges to 3,923 titles. That is a 20% increase from the same reporting period in 2022, which saw the highest number of book challenges since ALA began compiling the data more than 20 years ago.

The vast majority of challenges were to books written by or about a person of color or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Banned books in Corpus Christi and Texas

Locally, libraries and groups are prepared to celebrate Banned Books Week.

The League of Women Voters-Corpus Christi Area held a Read-Out at Black Cat Books Saturday, where people read passages from books that have been banned or challenged in the past.

The Neyland Library’s Banned Book Club will host a Banned Book Tea at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Held at the library on Carmel Parkway, attendees can join a discussion on banned books while enjoying tea and cookies.

According to ALA, 1,120 titles were challenged in Texas to ban books.

Librarian Dawn Groff places book labeled

In August 2022, the Caller-Times reported that the Nueces chapter of County Citizens Defending Freedom USA, a conservative organization, and Nueces County’s Moms for Liberty were active in challenging certain books in school districts.

Some books that were targeted included:

  • “Beloved” by Toni Morrison
  • “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas
  • “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult
  • “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini
  • “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer
  • “Dreaming in Cuban” by Cristina García
  • “Grl2grl” by Julie Anne Peters

For most books, school districts placed “Mature Content” labels on the books rather than remove them after being reviewed by a committee.

What were the top books banned in 2022?

“Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe

The memoir recounts Kobabe’s journey from adolescence to adulthood and their exploration of gender identity and sexuality, ultimately identifying as being outside of the gender binary.

They begin telling their story from childhood to the present day and include many monumental experiences in their life, including their first period, learning about what it means to be transgender, first relationship and numerous others.

How many times challenged? 151

What was it challenged for? LGBTQIA+ content; claimed to be sexually explicit

“All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson

In addition to describing Johnson’s own experience, the memoir addresses Black queer boys who may not have someone in their life with similar experiences.

How many times challenged? 86

What was it challenged for? LGBTQIA+ content; claimed to be sexually explicit

“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison

The novel takes place in Lorain, Ohio and tells the story of a young Black girl named Pecola who grew up following the Great Depression.

Set in 1941, the story is about how she is consistently regarded as “ugly” due to her mannerisms and dark skin. As a result, she develops an inferiority complex, which fuels her desire for the blue eyes she equates with “whiteness”.

How many times challenged? 73

What was it challenged for? Depiction of sexual abuse; equity, diversity and inclusion content; claimed to be sexually explicit

“Flamer” by Mike Curato

The semi-autobiographical graphic novel is set in a Boy Scouts summer camp in 1995.

It tells the story of Aiden, who is bullied for his appearance, including acting in a manner considered stereotypical of gay men. Curato was a scout and based his experience as a closeted teenager to write the novel.

How many times challenged? 62

What was it challenged for? LGBTQIA+ content; claimed to be sexually explicit

“Looking for Alaska” by John Green

The book follows the main character and narrator, Miles, to a boarding school where goes to seek a “Great Perhaps,” the famous last words of François Rabelais.

In the first half of the novel, Miles and his friends, including Alaska Young, grow very close and the section culminates in Alaska’s death. In the second half of the novel, Miles and his friends work to discover the missing details of the night Alaska died.

How many times challenged? 55

What was it challenged for? LGBTQIA+ content; claimed to be sexually explicit

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky

Set in the early 1990s, the novel follows Charlie, an introverted and observant child, through his freshman year of high school in a Pittsburgh suburb.

The novel details Charlie’s unconventional style of thinking as he navigates between the worlds of adolescence and adulthood, and attempts to deal with poignant questions spurred by his interactions with both his friends and family.

How many times challenged? 55

What was it challenged for? Depiction of sexual abuse; LGBTQIA+ content; drug use; profanity; claimed to be sexually explicit

“Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison

The book’s main character, Mike, is a young Chicano living in Washington.

Evison takes the reader into the heart and mind of Mike on a journey to discover himself, a search to find the secret to achieving the American dream of happiness and prosperity.

How many times challenged? 54

What was it challenged for? LGBTQIA+ content; claimed to be sexually explicit

“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie

From the perspective of a 14-year-old Native American Arnold, a promising cartoonist, the book goes through his life on the Spokane Indian Reservation and his decision to go to a nearly all-white public high school away from the reservation.

The graphic novel includes 65 comic illustrations that help further the plot.

How many times challenged? 52

What was it challenged for? Profanity; claimed to be sexually explicit

“Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Pérez

The novel chronicles a love affair between a teenage Mexican-American girl and a teenage Black boy in 1930s New London, Texas, occurring right up to the 1937 New London School explosion.

With one of the worst school disasters in American history as the backdrop, Pérez uses it to explain segregation, love, family and the forces that destroy people.

How many times challenged? 50

What was it challenged for? Depictions of abuse; claimed to be sexually explicit

“A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas

The second in the “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series, the novel picks up with Feyre, a fiery teenager, who has been granted the powers and lifespan of the High Fae ― a group of strong fairies.

As she remains human inside, she must learn to come to terms with the terrible acts she performed to save her lover’s, Tamlin, people. She starts to learn about the power and politics of Prythian, a “Faerie realm,” and the greater evil that looms.

How many times challenged? 48

What was it challenged for? Claimed to be sexually explicit

“Crank” by Ellen Hopkins

Loosely based on the real life addictions of Hopkins’ daughter to crystal meth, the novel chronicles the turbulent relationship between the main character, Kristina, and the highly addictive drug.

Kristina is introduced to “crank” while visiting her absent father. While under the influence, she discovers her alter-ego Bree. Bree will do all the things Kristina won’t, including attracting the attention of danger.

How many times challenged? 48

What was it challenged for? Drug use; claimed to be sexually explicit

“Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews

Greg only has one friend, Earl, and they spend their time together making films that are their own versions of Francis Ford Coppola and Werner Herzog cult classics.

One day, Greg’s mother forces him to rekindle with Rachel, a childhood friend who has been diagnosed with leukemia. When she stops her treatment, the two men decide to create a movie for her, which ends up being the worst film ever made.

How many times challenged? 48

What was it challenged for? Profanity, claimed to be sexually explicit

“This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson

The nonfiction book features 13 chapters that each focus on a different aspect of queer life.

It incorporates discussion on sex education, queer stereotypes, queer history and many other topics.

How many times challenged? 48

What was it challenged for? LGBTQIA+ content; providing sexual education; claimed to be sexually explicit


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John Oliva covers entertainment and community news in South Texas. Contact him at or Twitter @johnpoliva.

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