This 2005 children's book, written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole, tells the story of two penguins raising a baby penguin in New York's Central Park Zoo. Sounds innocent enough... except for the fact that both penguins were male.
Conservative opponents, such as the Focus on the Family Action group, said the book was inaccurate and promoted a political agenda to little kids. The American Library Association reports that "And Tango Makes Three" was the most challenged book of 2006 to 2010, except for 2009 when it was the second most challenged.
Photo courtesy of Simon & Schuster
Stephen Chbosky's 1999 coming of age novel details introverted Charlie's first year of high school. Among controversial issues, such as drug use and suicide, the book's coverage of homosexuality landed it third on the American Library Association's list of the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2009.
Check out the trailer for this fall's film adaptation of the book.
Augusten Burroughs' 2002 memoir traces his adolescence, living in the dysfunctional household of his mother's psychiatrist. A central point to the memoir is the sexual relationship between thirteen year-old Augusten and thirty-three year-old Neil Bookman. This homosexual content, along with profanity, drug use, and "moral shortcomings," led it to be banned in some high schools.
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This 1991 children's book, written by Michael Willhoite, is about a young boy whose divorced father now lives with his gay partner. It was one of the first children's books to portray a same-sex relationship in a positive light and shows a normal pairing between the two men and their boy.
Consequently, the book has become one of the most challenged books in recent years, with the American Library Association listing it at number 2 in their list of the 100 most challenged books from 1990-1999.
Photo courtesy of Alyson Books.
Lesléa Newman's 1989 children's book was one of the first lesbian-themed children's books to be published.
Heather's family, which includes two mothers, is discussed simply and positively.
The American Library Association ranked "Heather Has Two Mommies" as the 11th most frequently challenged book in the United States in the 1990s.
Photo courtesy of Alyson Books.
E. M. Forster's tale of homosexual love in early 20th century England, follows Maurice Hall from youth to adulthood and details his struggles, and eventual acceptance, of his gay tendencies and his relationship with another man.
The book was published in 1971 after Forster's death. The author resisted publication because of public and legal attitudes to homosexuality -- a note found on the manuscript read: "Publishable, but worth it?" So, in this case, the author himself was the one challenging the book, only because he knew how the book would be received in early 20th century England.
Photo courtesy of Hodder & Stoughton.
When Walt Whitman published this poetry collection, in 1855, he was fired from his job at the Department of the Interior, it was burned by fellow poets and it was referred to as a "mass of stupid filth."
Subsequent editions of the collection were banned by some distributors for obscenity. Along with criticism of the collection's obscenity came some of the first public accusations of Whitman's involvement in gay acts.
Photo via Bantham Classics.
This 1982 novel by Nancy Garden follows the romantic relationship between two 17-year-old New York City girls, Annie and Liza.
Although it was a widely praised piece of young adult fiction, it also brought critics, particularly in Kansas. Because of the gay themes, copies of the book were burned and superintendent Ron Wimmer of the Olathe School District ordered the book removed from the high school library to avoid controversy.
Garden later commented, about the burning: "Burned! I didn't think people burned books any more. Only Nazis burn books..."
Photo courtesy of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.
When Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" was published in 1956, the iconic Beat poem was considered "obscene literature," and U.S. Customs officials seized 520 copies of the poem. "Howl" contained references to illicit drugs and sexual practices, both heterosexual and homosexual.
At the obscenity trial, literary experts testified on the poem's behalf. Supported by the ACLU, the California State Superior Court Judge Clayton Horn decided that the poem was of "redeeming social importance," and it went on to become one of the most popular pieces of Beat literature.
Photo courtesy of City Lights.
This children's novel about four elementary school girls was pulled from Scholastic Book Fairs in 2009. Scholastic asked author Lauren Myracle to edit out some inappropriate language -- "geez," "crap," "sucks," -- and turn one character's lesbian parents straight.
Although Myracle was fine with changing the language, she saw nothing offensive about a child having gay parents and wouldn't replace them with a heterosexual couple, so Scholastic didn't accept the book for fear of getting hate mail from parents.
Myracle commented, "Over 200,000 kids in America are raised by same-sex parents, just like Milla. It's not an issue to clean up or hide away... In my opinion, it's not an 'issue' at all. The issue, as I see it, is that kids benefit hugely from seeing themselves reflected positively in the books they read. It's an extremely empowering and validating experience."
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In this children's book, Chloe, a young guinea pig, is afraid that she will lose her uncle's friendship after he marries another man. With its normalization of gay marriage targeted toward young children, "Uncle Bobby's Wedding" was on the American Library Accociation's 2008 most challenged list.
Read how one librarian responded to the challenge here.
Photo courtesy of Penguin.
This children's book about going through puberty and growing up covers controversial topics like HIV/AIDS, birth control, abortion, and homosexuality.
Because of its frank treatment of these and other topics, with accompanying illustrations, the book has become the twelfth most challenged book from 2000-2009, according to the American Library Association.
One woman checked out every copy at a local library and refused to return them so that others couldn't see the material, writing "Since I have been sufficiently horrified of the illustrations and the sexually graphic, amoral abnormal contents, I will not be returning the books."
Photo courtesy of Candlewick Press.
Edited by Amy Sonnie, this anthology was created by and for radical queer youth, committed specifically to youth of color, young women, transgender and bisexual youth, (dis)abled youth and working class youth.
The resource for queer students was widely controversial and was even targeted by members of Glenn Beck's 9/12 movement and on the American Library Association's list of most challenged books in 2010.
Photo courtesy of Alyson Books.
Alice Walker's 1982 novel about the lives of black women in the 1930s American South is one the American Library Association's frequently challenged classics, for reasons including "the homosexuality, rape, and incest portrayed in the book."
Photo courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
This 1959 novel by beat writer William S. Burroughs, which was included in Time magazine's "100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005," was banned in Boston in 1962.
Among many claims of obscenity covered in the Boston 1965 trial to defend the ban, was its frank discussion of gay acts.
Luckily, "Naked Lunch" proponents such as Norman Mailer and Allen Ginsberg defended the book's cultural value in court and the ban was overturned in 1966.
Photo courtesy of Grove Atlantic
Though 1994's "Am I Blue?" -- a collection of stories about being LGBT from authors like Francesca Lia Block, Bruce Coville, Nancy Garden and James Cross Giblin -- was honored with awards from the ALA and the New York Public Library, it was also challenged for its content.