'Captain Underpants,' 'Fifty Shades' top list of most-challenged books

acarlson@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 24, 2013 

What do "Captain Underpants," "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "Beloved" have in common? They all made the American Library Association's Top 10 list for most frequently challenged books in 2012.

Some background: the ALA defines a challenge as "a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness"; additionally, the group estimates that "for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported."

Four hundred and sixty four challenges were reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom in 2012 -- the most since 2008. The resulting list is wide-ranging, incorporating a range of genres, years, authors, subject matter, theme and acclaim. A common thread to the challenges? "Offensive language," "homosexuality" and "unsuited for age group."

To that last point, author Sherman Alexie told The Bulletin, "The world is an incredibly complicated place, and our literature must match that, especially literature for our kids."

Lois Ruby's "Steal Away Home" didn't make the cut, though it has caused some recent concern (and controversy) for local school administrators.

Most surprising here, I think, is "The Kite Runner" and "Thirteen Reasons Why" (and perennially misunderstood "Captain Underpants"), since their challenges also ignore their context. But that's true of most of these things.

See the full list here -- did one of your favorite books make the list?

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