The 10 Most Controversial Books In America

Culture September 25, 2017 By Vincent

The American Library Association is the organization that monitors what goes on library shelves across the country. Last year they received 275 complaints about the books they have on offer for a wide range of reasons, some more obvious than others. Naturally, these reasons are often controversial or because of personal prejudices and so we look at the top ten and the reasoning behind why they were asked to be removed.

1. Looking For Alaska by John Green

What it's about: A coming of age story about life, love, loss, and relationships, the book follows a group of educated teens who smoke, drink and have sex. Essentially it is about the exploration of the world around you and thus the self. 

Controversy: Offensive language abound and sexually explicit, it is argued that this book is entirely unsuited for the age group it is aimed at but if anyone thinks teens aren't doing this stuff already, they are perhaps a little naive. It's actually a rather touching and well-written story that should be the least of anyone's troubles. Winner of the 2006 Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association, it seems unlikely they'll remove it from their shelves anytime soon despite the complaints.

2. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L James

 What it's about: The first in a trilogy of erotic novels that became a surprise hit, it follows the story of a young college graduate who becomes the lover of a billionaire who is into sadomasochistic sexual practices.

Controversy: Sexually explicit from the outset, the book is all about eroticism and so there are concerns it shouldn't be easily accessible via libraries. It's hardly a hard-hitting drama and for all the claims of it being 'extreme', it really isn't to anyone with a slight sense of adventure. There are concerns that the way the billionaire character is written, he comes off as abusive and like a stalker but so much time is put into declaring that the sex is consensual that it glosses over that fairly comprehensively. Perhaps its biggest crime is how poorly written it is.


3. I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings

What it's about: A children's picture book about transgender issues that introduces Jazz, a girl born as a boy and her struggles to find acceptance. Based on the real-life story of reality t.v. star Jazz Jennings, it is a simple and clear book about being transgender.

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Controversy: Some argue that children reading picture books about transgender issues is too much for their young minds whilst others counter it opens the mind at a young age and prevents prejudices. In any case, being a picture book issues are rather simplified. Whether this makes this clearer or is an inaccurate representation of transgender struggles is up for debate.

4. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin

Whats it about: The author is a photographer who shoots then interviews six transgender or gender-neutral young adults about their experiences.

Controversy: Mostly the issue seems to be a mish-mash of complaints that boil down to not wanting young people to learn about transgender issues. It has been marketed as a groundbreaking piece of LGBT work but it's just interviews with normal people.

5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

What is it about: A story of a young boy with autism unraveling the mystery of how and why a dog was killed in the neighbor's garden. A touching and well thought out piece on the nature of autism that includes mathematical sections and puzzles to illustrate how the protagonist's mind works.

Controversy: It has strong language and presents a view of atheism, these seem to be the reoccurring themes that people are upset with which really is missing the point of the novel if that's what you take away from it.

6. The Holy Bible

What is it about: Jesus mostly.


Controversy: It presents a religious viewpoint. Really, if you didn't think a religious text would present a religious viewpoint you need to get to the library more and educate yourself.

7. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

What is it about: An autobiographical graphic novel, it tells the story of the author's childhood addressing themes of sexual orientation, gender roles, suicide, emotional abuse, dysfunctional family life, and the role of literature in understanding oneself and one's family.

Controversy: Violence and graphic images, the book is the story of someone's life and childhood and does not shy away from depicting the highs and lows of that life. Only as controversial as much as a controversial life can be lived.

8. Habibi by Craig Thompson

What is it about: A sort of Islamic fairytale about two children who start life as slaves and then inhabit different bodies throughout the story and learn with each transformation

Controversy: Containing sex and nudity the debate seems to arise from depicting this in imagery but it certainly isn't gratuitous and there is a point to it which is the essential difference between literature and pornography and porn this is not.

9. Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter

What is it about: A young girl enrolls in a secret school as under Taliban rule in Afghanistan girls cannot go to school.

Controversy: Violent and with a religious viewpoint but when discussing the subject matter of being oppressed under a religious regime, it is kind of hard to avoid these two themes cropping up every now and again. It is a children's book so I imagine that is where most of the animosity lies,

10. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

What is it about: The central story revolves around two young men trying to break a world record for kissing, in turn, this is used as a starting point to explore other gay relationships.

Controversy: It's about homosexuality. Some people have an issue with homosexuality.


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