Summer Sale! Save 20% today and get access to all our member benefits.

4 Banned LGBTQ+ Books to Read During Pride Month

4 Banned LGBTQ+ Books to Read During Pride Month

Book banning has seen a sharp rise across the United States, and many of the titles targeted depict LGBTQ+ people and their experiences. Books banned during the 2023-2024 school year reached a record high, with over 4,000 instances of banning in the first half alone, more than in the whole previous year. Many of the works that are regularly challenged or banned have the potential to empower young people of marginalized identities; to cause readers to question or challenge norms around gender, sexuality, and racial inequality; and to add underrepresented aspects of experience, history, and creative expression to the larger reading culture.

Bookstores, publications, and organizations have responded to book bans by attempting to make banned and challenged material more visible and widely available. This Pride month, we bring you a list of books by queer and transgender authors that have been banned and challenged by schools or libraries in recent years. While these books are all at least somewhat geared toward young people, they hold appeal for a wide-ranging audience of adolescents and adults, regardless of gender or sexuality.

All Boys Aren't Blue

All Boys Aren't Blue
by George M. Johnson

“Queer Black existence has been here forever, and yet rarely has that experience been spotlighted within literature aimed at Black boyhood,” reads the starred Kirkus review of George M. Johnson’s 2020 "memoir-manifesto" All Boys Aren’t Blue. The work covers the author’s experiences growing up Black and queer in New Jersey and Virginia, and has become one of the most extensively banned books over the past few years. In an article for NPR, Johnson commented, “I often get asked if the bans ‘changed how I would write’ or ‘turned me off from continuing to write.’ They have not. They have only empowered me to keep telling more stories. More stories about myself, stories about my ancestors…And, even better, creating fictional worlds where Black queer kids who are like I was once can get their happy ending.”

 

Cemetery Boys
by Aiden Thomas

Published in 2020, Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas was longlisted for the National Book Award and was the first work of fiction featuring a trans story by an openly trans author to become a New York Times bestseller. According to the ALA (American Library Association), it has also become one of the most commonly banned books featuring a trans story. The book follows a queer, trans teenager who is trying to convince his traditional Latinx family to accept his true gender, and lands himself in paranormal trouble as a result. Thomas has described Cemetery Boys as a “ghost story turned rom-com.” According to a Publishers Weekly starred review, "Thomas marries concept and execution in a romantic mystery as poignant as it is spellbinding, weaved in a mosaic of culture, acceptance, and identity, where intricately crafted characters are the pieces and love—platonic, romantic, familial, and communal—is the glue."

 

Last Night at the Telegraph Club

Last Night at the Telegraph Club
by Malinda Lo

Malinda Lo’s Last Night at the Telegraph Club is an ambitiously rendered 2021 young adult novel that follows a Chinese American teenager as she pursues a romance with a classmate while frequenting a lesbian bar in 1950s San Francisco. The story sets the main character’s navigation of her sexuality alongside the Red Scare, anti-Asian racism, and evolving career opportunities for women. Lo has written about and extensively documented the banning of Last Night at the Telegraph Club and her other books in an article on her blog that delves into book-banning culture in general: “My Books Have Been Banned or Challenged in 16 States.” Responding to a complaint about an "erotically written" scene in the novel, she notes, "It seems to me that the person who wrote this response to Telegraph Club was so immersed in the story that they experienced Lily’s feelings. They empathized with a queer character, and that experience was unacceptable to them."

 

Gender Queer

Gender Queer
by Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer, a graphic memoir by Maia Kobabe, has been number one on the ALA’s list of most challenged books for the past three years. The narrative follows Kobabe exploring gender identity and sexuality from adolescence to adulthood. A starred review for School Library Journal called it “a great resource for those who identify as nonbinary or asexual as well as for those who know someone who identifies that way and wish to better understand.” In an article for NPR, Kobabe recounts that the book, when first published in 2019, was met not with hatred but “a wave of online love.” It received both a Stonewall Honor and an Alex Award from the ALA. It was only in 2021 that Gender Queer began to be challenged, starting with a viral video of a parent making angry remarks about the book in a school board meeting that set off a wave of outrage. 

This demonstrates how insular, superficially formed, and deceptively small groups pushing for book bans can be. As Lo points out in her article, people who challenge books with complaints about their supposedly offensive content often haven’t read them. Yet banning books and a culture that normalizes doing so can have a devastating effect on children and teens and society as a whole. Even if book bans aren’t passed, putting the presence and experiences of marginalized authors and characters up for debate sends a message of intolerance to people who share their identities.

For those who want to get involved in fighting censorship and book bans, the ALA offers a list of actions that can help.

Comments (Please click on the link above to post a comment. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
BookBrowse Summer Sale