Banned Spotlight: George

Alex Gino’s George is an inspiring middle grades read that calls on its young readers to be who you are, but some have found the content of the book offensive because the book’s young protagonist is transgender. The book appeared in the number five slot on ALA’s top ten challenged books for 2017, and it was also included on the 2016 list.

When people look at fourth grader George, they see a boy, but George knows she’s a girl named Melissa. She has resigned herself to living with the secret until her school’s production of Charlotte’s Web gives her the chance to reveal who she really is. George, which was released in late 2015, has been widely lauded for its moving portrayal of a transgender child. Booklist, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal gave the book starred reviews, and it won the Lambda Literary Award, Stonewall Award, Children’s Choice Debut Author Award, and the Gold Medal for juvenile fiction in the California Book Awards. George was also on best of the year lists from Kirkus, NPR, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal.

In 2017, the Wichita, Kansas, school system decided against including George in district libraries, citing language and references that are inappropriate for young children in their reasoning. Administrators prevented district librarians from using system funds to purchase the book, and Gino took to Twitter to raise enough money to purchase copies of the book for the district’s 57 elementary and K-8 school libraries. It took less than an hour to do so.

In 2016, author Phil Binder was disinvited from presenting at Round Rock, Texas, schools after reading excerpts from George, and it looks like the book may also earn a spot on the top ten challenged titles of 2018 list. Early this year, One Million Moms, an offshoot of the hate group American Family Association, called on its followers to contact Scholastic to demand that the publisher discontinue printing the book. In May, two Oregon school districts decided not to participate in the state’s Battle of the Books elective independent reading program because George was among the titles on the list of books.

Gino has been very active in defending George. During Banned Books Week, Gino will be participating in “Speak Out: Voicing Movements in the Face of Cenorship,” a webinar from ALA’s Office for Inteelectual Freedom, SAGE Publishing, and Index on Censorship. Find out more here.

Find more of ALA OIF’s top ten challenged and banned lists here.