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Placing Limitations on Imagination: Banned Books in America

Another reason this is a hot button topic for me, is that some of my favorite authors are on that list.

One being Ellen Hopkins, who is almost banned before she even releases a book because she covers harsh subject matter.

Her first book, “Crank” is banned for talking about drug use, sexuality, and the fact that her main character considers, but does not obtain, an abortion.

Sarah J. Mass is another author, whom I’m currently reading, that is on the list with “A Court of Mist and Fury.”

This book is being banned across the nation for explicit sexual content and intense, violent battle scenes.  

Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools is a study done by Pen America.

This study does a deep-dive inclusive look at banned books during the 2021-22 school year. According to this study, an enrollment of close to 4 million students, in 138 school districts in 32 states are being effected by book bans.

Right now, according the unique banned book titles from PEN America, there are more than 1,500 books effected by some type of ban.

Let’s take a look at how that breaks down by subject matter.


Of the more than 2,500 types of bans listed in that Index, 96% were done without following the best practice guidelines for book challenges outlines by the American Library Association or the National Coalition Against Censorship.


Almost half of the banned book titles were written for the young adult audience. Bans also targeted books for younger readers such as picture books and chapter books.


Some of most banned books from the 2021-22 school year include works from best-selling authors, winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature, the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and more. Some of these books have been focused on because they contain content such as LGBTQ+ matters, race/racism, sexual content or all three.  


 Let's take a look inside my bookshelf:

Some other notable authors and titles include:


For a deeper look into “The 50 most banned books in America:”


As of the PEN America report based on the 2021-22 school year, there are 32 states and 138 districts with bans in their libraries.

PEN America notes that these bans affect intellectual freedom, as well as interfering with free expression rights. The study goes on to state that “children deserve to see themselves in books,” and they have the right to read stories to offer perspectives that help them figure out the world they live in.


Although I can understand the motives behind some of the activists groups that want certain subject matters out of schools, I still have to agree with PEN America that it does interfere with free expression rights. For that matter, it interferes with the first amendment for freedom of speech. I can take in consideration the fact that parent’s don’t want their child learning about sex from a book in the public school library.  Maybe that is a subject they want to educate their child about on their own. But, I have also seen how the public school system fails to do proper sex education. For example, in my high school health class, we completely skipped over the reproductive systems for both males and females and never once was sex education brought up. This was because I lived in a highly religious area and even though there is supposed to be separation of church and state, parents didn’t want sex education in the school.



I do agree that overly explicit sex scenes probably do not belong in a public school library where a 13-year-old could get their hands on it. But where do we draw the line? Take a look at the extremely popular “Harry Potter” books. In 2019, according the American Library Association, was on the top 10 most frequently banned books. The series was banned for "referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use 'nefarious means' to attain goals," according to the ALA. This is a step to far in my opinion.




Friedman, J. (2023, April 4). Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Ban Books. PEN America.





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