George, a middle-grade novel by transgender author Alex Gino, was officially the most challenged book in America last year, according to the American Library Association. While LGBTQ+ content is the number 1 cited reason for challenging books overall, George is the only queer book in the top 10 most challenged for 2020.
In a year of protests, talk of defunding the police, and increased racial tension, most were challenged for being “anti-police,” having discussions of racism, or explicit sex scenes.
This is a big change from the past several years, when LGBTQ+ titles have dominated the list. Last year, eight of the 10 most challenged books had LGBTQ+ characters, including A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, Prince & Knight, Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, and I Am Jazz. The previous year also had a majority of most-challenged books featuring LGBTQ+ themes.
Other books on the top 10 this year include Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds, Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
Half of all challenges come from parents who don’t want their children reading these books. Other groups that challenge books include library patrons, religious groups, and school and library boards and administrations.
George is a book about a fourth-grader who knows she’s trans but hasn’t come out yet. When her school is going to put on a play of Charlotte’s Web, George gets help from her best friend, Kelly, to not only get the role of Charlotte in the play but to help everyone see who she really is.
This is the third year in a row that George has been the most challenged book in America, part of a larger trend over the last few years in which trans youth, and particularly trans youth in schools, have become a major target for conservatives.
Not only are books about trans people being challenged and banned, but right now in America there are over 90 bills aiming at trans people, and most specifically target trans youth. Many of these bills focus on trans student athletes, saying that they should have to compete under the gender they were assigned at birth. Others seek to prevent trans youths from obtaining lifesaving trans-related health care like hormone blockers. Arkansas Tuesday became the first state to approve one fo the latter bills, with legislators overriding Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto.