Banned Books

Banned Books

What do Gender Queer, Maus, and The Handmaid's Tale have in common? They are among thousands of books that have been recently banned in schools and libraries across the U.S. — and the list is growing fast. From celebrated science-fiction classics to modern essays on racism to kindergarten books about gay penguins, Brookline Booksmith is proud to highlight a selection of these censored titles. Join us in celebrating the right to read!

Want to learn more about book bans in the U.S.? Visit the American Library Association's banned books hub or read up on PEN America's advocacy for the right to read.

In this “memoir-manifesto,” journalist and activist George M. Johnson describes their queer, Black, non-binary adolescence in a series of vivid personal essays. In 2021, it was the third-most frequently banned book in the U.S.; in 2022, it jumped to second. Per the American Library Association, it was challenged for “LGBTQIA+ content, profanity, and because it was considered to be sexually explicit.”

In 2022, several conservative politicians in Virginia sued Barnes & Noble to try to prevent the sale of this popular fantasy romance novel on the grounds that it violated the state's obscenity laws. It was one of the first lawsuits in living memory to target a private business for the sale of controversial books. The judge dismissed the case, adding that the state's obscenity law itself was likely unconstitutional.

A 2023 Massachusetts Teen Choice Award pick, Flamer follows a young gay teen in the mid-'90s as he struggles to accept himself despite the homophobia surrounding him. Written to try to prevent suicide among vulnerable LGBTQ+ teens, it was the fourth-most frequently banned book of 2022.

Adapted into a popular Netflix show, this series (written for tweens and up) centers a sweet adolescent romance between two British boys. As of August 2023, it has been removed from school libraries in three U.S. states; in Turkey, it must be labeled “Harmful to Children”; and in Hungary, a bookstore was fined roughly $36,000 for defying a law that requires all books with LGBTQ+ characters to be sealed in plastic.

This 2016 memoir about the author's experiences of coming out as nonbinary (pronouns: e/em/eir) as a young adult debuted to awards and accolades from critics and readers alike. In 2022, it was the most frequently banned book in the U.S. The book, written for adults, has been accused of being “pornographic” for depicting scenes from the author’s life and eir journey toward understanding that e is asexual.

Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison’s first novel follows a Black girl who, surrounded by the racism of 1940s Ohio, longs to be white. It has been banned and challenged throughout its publication history – most recently in 2021 and 2022 – because “it depicts child sexual abuse and was considered sexually explicit.”

An award-winning nonfiction account of the complex intersection of race, gender, and class at the heart of a hate crime that altered two California teens’ lives forever. In 2021, it was among books banned and removed from libraries in Texas, Kansas, and Pennsylvania because of its LGBTQ+ content and characters.


Two boys — one Black, one white — confront racism and police brutality in their community in this highly acclaimed teen novel. In 2020, it was banned and challenged “because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be ‘too much of a sensitive matter right now’.”


Written for kindergarten-aged children, this 2005 picture book tells the true story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who successfully hatched and raised a chick together. It has been banned repeatedly in schools and libraries for depicting an LGBTQ+ couple (the penguins.)

An award-winning 2014 photography and essay collection presents six transgender and non-binary teenagers on their own terms before, during, and after their transitions. It has been challenged across the U.S. since its publication for LGBTQ+ content, claims that it is “anti-family,” and for “its effect on any young people who would read it.”


Hamilton and Ture lucidly lay out a still-prescient theoretical framework for understanding systemic racism, as well as a roadmap to revolution. This book was banned in South Africa during Apartheid due to its critique of white supremacy. Kwame Ture himself was imprisoned over 30 times and banned from entering several countries, including his native Trinidad, for his activism.


Jacqueline Woodson’s beloved memoir-in-verse about growing up during the Civil Rights Movement won both the National Book Award and Newbery Honor Award, the two highest prizes in children’s literature. It was banned and challenged in some U.S. libraries in 2021 for allegedly promoting “critical race theory.”