John Oliver’s parody children’s book about a gay rabbit, which is meant to satirize a children’s book by Mike Pence’s family about their own pet rabbit, is No. 2 on the American Library Association’s (ALA’s) annual list of the most-challenged books of the year.
As The Associated Press reports, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver Presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, which is credited not to Oliver but to staff writer Jill Twiss, was published in 2018. From the get-go, Oliver was clear that “his” book was intended as a satire of a book, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, by the wife and daughter of Vice President Mike Pence. The Pence book is a simple children’s book about the family’s pet rabbit; in Oliver’s satire, the rabbit is gay.
That’s a bit of trolling aimed at Pence, who has a history of anti-LGBTQ views as well as a history of championing anti-LGBTQ legislation.
The book’s pro-gay viewpoint, as well as its political bias, has not sat well with some parents, taxpayers, and library patrons. In fact, with the book receiving so many complaints, it’s the second most-challenged book on the ALA’s list of challenged books.
For decades, the group has maintained a list of books that are the subject of the most complaints and/or the most requests to remove a book from a library, be it a school library or public lending library. From old classics such as Huckleberry Finn to contemporary titles about current issues, the list changes every year and yet in many ways stays the same.
For example, occupying the No. 1 spot this year, ahead of Oliver’s parody book, is a tween novel about a transgender child, Alex Gino’s George. Also on the list was Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, challenged for its use of profanity and its supposed “anti-cop bias”; and Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series, which includes an oblique reference to a same-sex couple and supposedly encourages “disruptive behavior.”
The list also includes titles that show up consistently every year, including stalwarts such as the Harry Potter series for its supposed witchcraft; The Great Gatsby for its supposed profanity and sexual content; and Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird for its sexual content as well as its racial components.
The ALA’s list is maintained and promoted as part of the association’s larger efforts at shining a light on censorship, according to the association’s website.
“By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.”