Free societies read freely!

The ACLU of Iowa is dedicated to preserving our First Amendment to decide for ourselves what we read, view, and hear—a fundamental element of free speech and expression.

Banned Books Week is observed annually in late September to celebrate the First Amendment and draw attention to the censorship of literature in public schools. This year, the ACLU of Iowa is honored to partner with the Iowa Library Association in promoting materials and educating on the topic of banned books in Iowa. 


The American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom tracks books that have been challenged, often by parents of students, to be removed from public and school libraries. Classic books such as Brave New World and The Catcher in the Rye, and newer titles, such as the Gossip Girl series and Twilight, have been on "challenged" lists for reasons including explicit language, sexual content and violence. See a more extenstive listing of challenged books in Iowa below.

Orange City has been a recent hot spot. In 2018, a petition was circulated in Orange City, demanding that the local library segregate and label books and content that have any LGBTQ content and halt acquisition of any more. The library has since simply revised its overall classification of books by topic rather than author. Later that year, a man objecting to children's books at the library with LGBTQ content burned them and shared a video of it in social media. 

In other cases, specific books have been challenged. The following is a listing of books that been challenged since 2005 in Iowa libraries because they contained sex, homosexuality, swear words, or mentions of suicide or drug use. We are happy to report that none of them were successfully removed

13 Reasons Why
Becoming Sister Wives
Thirteen Reasons Why 
by Jay Asher
Challenged for containing themes of sex and suicide
Becoming Sister Wives 
by Kody Brown
Challenged for referencing the concept of polygamy
Buster's Sugartime 
by Marc Brown
Challenged for featuring a lesbian couple
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings 
by Maya Angelou
Challenged for references to drugs and sex
It's a Book 
by Lane Smith
Challenged for use of the word "jackass"
The Notebook Girls 
by Julia Baskin
Challenged for age-appropriateness
Playing Without the Ball
Vampires, Werewolves & Zombies 
by Lisa Regan
Challenged for age-appropriateness
Playing Without the Ball 
by Rich Wallace
Challenged for containing sex
Fired: Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized, and Dismissed 
by Annabelle Gurwitch
Challenged for unknown reasons
And Tango Makes Three
The Things They Carried 
by Tim O'Brien
Challenged for the liberal use of the word "fuck" and drug references
And Tango Makes Three 
by John Richardson and Peter Parnell
Challenged for containing themes of homosexuality
by Robert Burleigh
Challenged for the use of the word "nigger"
Second Helpings
What's Eating Gilbert Grape 
by Peter Hedges
Challenged for referencing oral sex
Sloppy Firsts 
by Megan McCafferty
Challenged for referencing sex
Second Helpings 
by Megan McCafferty
Challenged for referencing sex

Part time Indian
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian 
by Sherman Alexie
Challenged in 2015 for coarse language, masturbation references 
perks wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower 
by Stephen Chbosky
Challenged in 2016 for sexual references and “adult” situation