Banned Book Week in Oklahoma

Since Oklahoma officials passed HB 1775 last year, there has been a massive surge of restrictions against discussing race and gender in the classroom. We’ve seen everything from challenging the importance of  books on public school shelves, to the silent removal of books from public libraries. These books happen to be written by mostly Black and 2SLGBTQ+ authors. It’s almost been a year since the ACLU of Oklahoma and partners filed a lawsuit condemning the recently signed classroom censorship law, HB 1775, and we are still in the battle waiting for a judgement in our request for a preliminary injunction. The First Amendment protects students' rights to literary expression and to learn about the history and viewpoints of all communities.  
Below are 5 books that have been under review by the unelected Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office. These selections are relevant to Oklahoma’s current climate, share critical perspectives, and affirm readers who may feel alone. 

Books like these are meant to challenge our assumptions about the world and to tackle difficult topics with ourselves and peers. Book bans are a misguided attempt to suppress these insights in schools. The ACLU of Oklahoma is continuing to fight against book bans in Oklahoma, and will continue to advocate for a wholistic education on important history, perspectives and social issues. We all have a right to read and learn free from viewpoint-based or partisan censorship. 

1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

A.I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou


This is the first of seven books in Angelou’s winding autobiography. In this novel, she provides a first-person view into a black woman’s struggles with racism, rape, literacy, and how she prevailed. Angelou is often praised for being the first black author on the NYT Best Sellers list. 
Even though this novel is still an optional read for Oklahoma students, there is contention that Caged Bird Sings was restricted for younger age groups. The book is often banned from school districts for containing rape, profanity and in some cases, being ‘anti-white.’ 

2. Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

A.Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe


Only released in 2019, Gender Queer was the most targeted book in 2021 by the American Library Association. This autobiographical graphic novel showcases the journey of grappling with gender identity and sexuality. Kobabe illustrates the confusion of explaining one’s gender identity and the tribulations of coming out to family. 
Gender Queer is often cited as ‘pornographic’ by lawmakers who condemn this book. In June 2022, the ACLU of Virginia, along with partners, filed a motion to dismiss an obscenity proceeding against this book. Locally, we’ve seen it removed from school bookshelves in school districts like Tulsa Public Schools. 

3. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

A.Lord of the Flies by William Golding


Lord of the Flies tells the story of a group of boys stranded on a tropical island with no adult supervision. In this novel, Golding explores the levels of order and brutality that vary within everyone and the dangers of mob mentality.  
This classic is consistently in the Top 100 list of most challenged books in America, and is often banned for its violence and profanity. 

4. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

A.The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison


The novel’s protagonist is a young Black girl in post-depression Ohio who experiences profound emotional, physical and sexual abuse from her parents. Morrison showcases some of the most brutal social inequities during the Civil Rights Movement, including poverty, racism and sexism. 
The Bluest Eye has some of the most fiercest ban challenges out of any popular book, namely from its themes of racism, incest and rape. Such bans include a Mississippi mayor who threatened to withhold $100,000 of public funding until the book was removed from the country library system. 

5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

A.The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky


The young adult book Perks of Being a Wallflower tells the coming-of-age story of Charlie, a teenager coping with the suicide of his best friend. During this time, he befriends two students that help him discover all of the intricacies of being a teenager. This book gives an immersive look into themes of mental health, suicide, PTSD and sexuality from a teenage perspective. 
Since coming out in 2003, the book is often challenged for discussing sexual orientation, drugs, and sexually explicit language.