There were at least eight times when books were banned in Colorado during the last school year. That’s what PEN America, a non-profit that fights for free speech, says. They keep track of book challenges and bans in the U.S. From July 2022 to June 2023, this information was kept track of. Colorado doesn’t have nearly as many book ban cases as Florida did during the same time period—1,400!—but there is still debate over books in the state.
The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association kept track of eight attempts to limit access to books in Colorado from January 1, 2023, to August 31, 2023. During that time, about 130 books were challenged.
ALA says that as of last year, “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” a 2019 visual memoir by Maia Kobabe, was the most challenged or banned book in Colorado. There have been problems with the book because it is said to be sexually frank and have LGBTQIA+ references.
The ALA says it was the most challenged book in the whole country in 2022. PEN America says it was the fifth most banned book for the 2022–23 school year. There were a lot of problems with it in 2021.
A parent in Adams 12 Five Star Schools spoke out against “Gender Queer” early last year. They said it was like pornography because it had graphic drawings of sexual acts between two characters in the story. The book wasn’t in any of the school district’s libraries, though. People in other states, like Iowa and Maine, have tried to ban the book, but officials have always stopped them.
In the past, “Gender Queer” has been at the center of other problems. People in Michigan stopped paying for a library that wouldn’t take down this book and other LGBTQ+ books from its shelves. A library in Iowa had to close for a while because several employees quit because of problems with LGBTQ+ books like “Gender Queer.”
In an opinion piece for the Washington Post in 2021, Kobabe spoke out against the bans. He said, “Removing or restricting queer books in libraries and schools is like cutting a lifeline for queer youth, who might not even know what terms to ask Google to find out more about their own identities, bodies, and health.”
“All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson, “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, and “Flamer” by Mike Curato are some other LGBTQ+ books that have been criticized a lot.
PEN America says that “overwhelmingly,” these book bans are against books about race and racism that have people of color or who are LGBTQ+. Also, most of these books were written by people of color or who identify as LGBTQ+.
“Flamer” author Curato, whose young adult book is one of the most banned in the U.S., has told Nexstar that the campaign against these kinds of books and writers is “very politically motivated.”