Each year, more and more books are being targeted by censors to be banned from public libraries and school bookshelves. Many of these books were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community or by and about Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color. The researchers at Writer’s Relief have taken a look at some of these banned books and the reasons they were censored. Here are the top 8 banned books we recommend you read!
8 Banned Books You Should Read In 2023
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Reason for being banned: “anti-white messaging,” sexual content, offensive language, and homosexuality
An autobiographical novel of the famous writer and poet Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is a tale of her coming of age as a Black girl in St. Louis and San Francisco. The novel tells a brutal story of how loneliness and bigotry can make one’s world bleak—and how writing can bring it joy. Beloved and revered by many, this is a powerful book we believe everyone should read.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Reason for being banned: insensitivity, offensive language, violence, anti-family, anti-ethic, and being “occult/satanic”
In a dystopic United States where children are forced to fight to the death, and the country has been fractured into twelve districts called Panem, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her sister’s place in the games. A gripping tale of rebellion, The Hunger Games series questions unflinching nationalism and the willingness of the elite to allow children to die for their amusement.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Reason for being banned: sexual content, graphic description, disturbing language, “socialist-communist” agenda
This book tells the story of Pecola Breedlove, an 11-year-old Black girl who prays that her eyes might turn blue. Abused by parents and peers for being “ugly,” Pecola believes that if only she had blue eyes, she might be loved. Morrison shows the damage of lifting up white beauty standards, and the deep, lasting scar it can leave upon young Black girls.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Reason for being banned: graphic language and inappropriate image
This graphic novel recounts Marjane Satrapi’s childhood growing up during the Iranian Revolution. Marjane offers a brutally honest account of how her family dealt with the tumultuous time. With an expressive style that depicts a child’s slowly growing realization of the political landscape around her, Persepolis is a book you shouldn’t miss.
Melissa by Alex Gino
Reason for being banned: LGBTQIA+ content
Previously published as George, Melissa is a story about a young trans girl. Even though her class only sees her as a boy, Melissa is determined to star as Charlotte the spider in her class’s upcoming play based on Charlotte’s Web—despite her teacher’s insistence she can’t.
I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings & Jessica Herthel
Reason for being banned: LGBTQIA+ content
I Am Jazz is the autobiographical story of Jazz Jennings, and how she knew from a young age that she was a girl. The book also explores her family’s confusion over and acceptance of her gender identity.
If you enjoy this book, you might also check out Jazz’s memoir: Being Jazz: My Life As A (Transgender) Teen.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Reason for being banned: anti-police sentiment, language
When a police officer forces honor student Justyce into handcuffs without cause, Justyce processes the experience by journaling to Martin Luther King Jr. to determine if King’s words still stand today. When another run-in with a cop turns lethal, Justyce finds himself at the center of media attention. Dear Martin is a frank look at the injustices committed against Black citizens and how the media furthers those injustices.
Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
Reason for being banned: LGBTQIA+ content, explicit imagery
Gender Queer: A Memoir received 56 bans between July 1st, 2021 and December 31st, 2022. This memoir tells the story of its nonbinary author, who uses the neo pronouns e/em/eir, as e recounts eir journey through self-identity and the complexities of growing up. It’s both a deeply personal story and a guide for those who might walk in shoes quite similar to those of Maia Kobabe.
Question: Which of these banned books will you read first?