Schools across Iowa pulled at least 450 books – including the Holocaust memoirs Maus by Art Spiegelman and Night by Elie Wiesel, dozens of classics, and books written for young readers – from their shelves at the start of the school year, according to a survey of schools by The Des Moines Register.

The newspaper sent open records requests to all 326 school districts in Iowa asking which books had been removed to comply with a new state law. Only two dozen had responded in time for the newspaper’s Oct. 17 database of 450 books, and some of those districts said they are waiting for guidance from the state. The list does not include books in Urbandale, Iowa, which in August ordered its educators to remove a list of nearly 400 titles if found in district schools and classrooms. After public pressure including an open letter from PEN America, the district dropped its objections to many of the titles and released a new list of 65 books, according to documents obtained by the Iowa anti-censorship group Annie’s Foundation

The Des Moines Register survey includes many of the most frequently banned books in PEN America’s Banned in the USA research, including Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and several books by Ellen Hopkins and Sarah J. Maas.

The most frequently banned books so far in Iowa were Sold by Patricia McCormick, and Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. Given the number of districts that had not yet responded, the newspaper predicted the number of books removed in Iowa could reach the thousands by the start of the new calendar year. 

Why Are Books Banned in Iowa?

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Senate File 496 into law in May 2023. The law has numerous provisions, based on a requirement that schools adopt what it calls an “age appropriate, multicultural and gender-fair approach” by schools and school districts. It includes a “Don’t Say Gay” provision, modeled off Florida’s 2022 law.

List of Books Banned in Iowa

Classic books banned in Iowa schools

  • 1984 and Animal Farm, by George Orwell
  • Beloved, The Bluest Eye, Song of Solomon and Sula, by Toni Morrison
  • Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  • The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
  • Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
  • Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston

Graphic novels for young readers banned in Iowa Schools

  • Flamer, by Mike Curato
  • New Kid and Class Act, by Jerry Craft
  • The Cardboard Kingdom, by Chad Sell 
  • The Magic Fish, by Trung Le Nguyen 

Picture books banned in Iowa schools

  • Prince and Knight, by Daniel Haack
  • This Day in June, by Gayle E. Pitman
  • When Aidan Became a Brother, by Kyle Lukoff

Young Adult books banned in Iowa schools

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue, by George M. Johnson
  • The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
  • Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon
  • Forever, by Judy Blume
  • The Hate U Giveby Angie Thomas
  • The House of Hades, by Rick Riordan
  • The Infinite Moment of Us, by Lauren Myracle
  • Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
  • The Moon Within, by Aida Salazar
  • Ordinary Hazards, by Nikki Grimes
  • Out of Darkness, Ashley Hope Pérez
  • The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo
  • Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
  • Speak and Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli
  • The Summer I Turned Pretty, by Jenny Han
  • The Sun Is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon
  • Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher
  • This Book Is Gay, Juno Dawson
  • Too Bright to See, Kyle Lukoff
  • Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan
  • Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer
  • What If It’s Us, by Becky Albertalli, Adam Silvera
  • The Weight of Blood, Tiffany D. Jackson
  • We’ll Always Have Summer, by Jenny Han

Other well-known books banned in Iowa schools

  • It, by Stephen King
  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  • Not That Bad, by Roxane Gay
  • Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
  • Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
  • Where the Crawdad Sings, by Delia Owens
  • Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

See The Des Moines’ Register’s full database of books banned in Iowa.