Twenty-five books have been banned in Marietta, Georgia since September over the objections of parents in the district. 

The bans began when the school board of Marietta City Schools issued a directive for a review of over 20,000 books in their catalogs for “sexually explicit content” – a move PEN America at the time said was “burdensome” and would likely target books about LGBTQ+ themes, books with characters of color, and books about sexual assault and consent. 

Eleven of the 25 books banned in Marietta are written by LGBTQ+ authors and/or include LGBTQ+ characters. 

Parents have appealed each of these bans – and they’ve been overruled each time. An appeal to reinstate Flamer by Mike Curato was signed by over 100 parents, but the school board upheld the ban in November. Flamer was initially objected to by only 2 parents in the district.

Why were these books banned?

The initial directive to investigate each of the district’s 20,000+ titles came after two books, Flamer by Mike Curato and Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews were banned in a nearby district in Cobb County, Georgia. 

A 2022 Georgia law allows parents to object to materials on the grounds that they are “harmful to minors” and lays out a path for principals to remove books based on those complaints. In Marietta, the school board established an appeals process for parents who disagree with the removal of books that the school board deemed “sexually explicit.”

The superintendent of Marietta schools told reporters in January that one of the methods they use to determine if a book is inappropriate is to check lists circulated by the group Moms for Liberty. PEN America has written previously about the influence of groups like Moms for Liberty on book banning activity. Their lists contribute to the “copycat” phenomenon identified by PEN America, in which books banned in one district frequently wind up banned across the country.

A coalition of Marietta parents has been fighting the book bans throughout the fall and winter. In January, children’s book author Mark Oshiro testified in support of the coalition, saying their own books with characters on the LGBTQ spectrum had been banned despite having no sexual content. “The operating assumption in these bans is that a queer person existing is inherently sexual, a sexual act or a sexual lesson to a reader,” they said. 

“The people who want to ban books featuring marginalized identities will not be satisfied until all of our books are removed from shelves,” Oshiro continued. “They are threatened by our existence because our existence and our work bridges divides. It helps children feel seen and appreciated.”

What is SB 226?

Georgia’s SB 226, which passed into law in 2022, prohibits materials in schools that are “harmful to minors.” As defined, works would be deemed harmful to minors if they appeal to the “prurient, shameful, or morbid” interest of minors; are “patently offensive” to the community; and lack literary value for minors. 

The law further lays out a process for parents to lodge complaints about books that they believe to be harmful to minors. Under the law, parents can object to a book and the principal must investigate the complaint within 7 days. Any decisions from the principal are subject to review by the superintendent and the school board. 

Similar laws have been passed in other states, including Florida, Missouri, and Iowa. Laws that prohibit any kind of sexual content in schools have resulted in bans of classics like The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, but as some state legislators have made clear, LGBTQ+ content is frequently the real target of such laws.

Which books were banned?

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Andrews, Jesse
Thirteen Reasons Why Asher, Jay
City of Thieves Benloff, David
The Perks of Being a Wallflower Chbosky, Stephen
Flamer Curato, Mike
This Book is Gay Dawson, Juno
I Love You, Beth Cooper Doyle, Larry
It Ends With Us Hoover, Colleen
Tricks Hopkins, Ellen
Identical Hopkins, Ellen
Crank Hopkins, Ellen
Monday’s Not Coming Jackson, Tiffany D.
All Boys Aren’t Blue Johnson, George M.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out Kuklin, Susan
A Court of Frost and Starlight Maas, Sarah J.
A Court of Mist and Fury Maas, Sarah J.
A Court of Thorns and Roses Maas, Sarah J.
A Court of Wings and Ruin Maas, Sarah J.
The Infinite Moment of Us Myracle, Lauren
Juliet Takes a Breath Rivera, Gabby
The Casual Vacancy Rowling, J. K.
Lucky Sebold, Alice
More Happy Than Not Silvera, Adam
Grasshopper Jungle Smith, Andrew
Blankets Thompson, Craig