The five books removed from Mat-Su English electives and why

Materials supplied by the Mat-Su Borough School District describe the five books that the school board voted to remove from upper-level English elective classes, and the challenges against them:

“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (1969) by Maya Angelou. An autobiography that details Angelou’s sexual abuse as an 8-year-old and how strength of character and love of literature helped her overcome racism and trauma. It was challenged for sexually explicit material and “anti-white” messaging.

“The Great Gatsby” (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Considered one of the great American novels, this work catalogues a summer of 1922 spent by a Yale graduate on Long Island and describes “the excess of the Roaring Twenties, the crime associated with prohibition, and unrequited love.” It was challenged for language and sexual references.

“Invisible Man” (1952) by Ralph Ellison. A complex National Book of Fiction winner that centers on a narrator who is a nameless young black man and addresses racism as well as personal identity and the anonymity of modern life. It was challenged for language, rape and incest.

“Catch-22” (1961) by Joseph Heller. A satirical description of World War II that follows an “anti-hero” bombardier as he maintains “sanity in crazy times.” It was challenged for racial slurs, misogyny and racist attitudes, and violence of war and against women.

“The Things They Carried” (1980) by Tim O’Brien. A collection of short stories about the Vietnam War that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and considered by some to be the best literary work of its kind. It was challenged for profanity and sexual references.

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Zaz Hollander

Zaz Hollander is a veteran journalist based in the Mat-Su and is currently an ADN local news editor and reporter. She covers breaking news, the Mat-Su region, aviation and general assignments. Contact her at