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Book Fairs Will See An Increase In Censorship Attempts This Year: Book Censorship News, September 15, 2023

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

Over the last three years, we have seen and heard every excuse from book banners for why they do not ban books. They instead “curate” or “ensure that only appropriate books” remain available in libraries. They insist that because those books are available at public libraries and for purchase, they have the right to demand books they don’t like to be removed from schools.

Of course, anyone who has paid attention for a second knows these are excuses. As soon as school book bans took off, so, too, did attempts to ban books from public libraries. Books in public libraries need to be better curated, need to be more age-appropriate, need to be labeled and moved per the current trends in right-wing social media.

For the most part, book stores have been spared. Not entirely, though. Last year brought an attempt to ban the sale of Gender Queer and A Court of Mist and Fury over claims of the titles being illegal under state obscenity laws. The lawsuit failed, as nothing about either book fails the Miller Test.

But for all that book banners claim it is okay for the books they do not like to be sold, the reality is they are not okay with that either. In the last several years, there have been attempts to censor the materials made available at school book fairs. Among the stories include the “reevaluation” of books for sale at book fairs in Mat-Su School District (Alaska — a school with a lengthy history of book bans), the removal of Heartstopper from a Scholastic Book Fair in South Carolina, parents believing they should determine which books are available for Scholastic Book Fairs in Little Miami (Ohio), two board members of the Hastings School District (MN) removed books they disagreed with from a Scholastic Book Fair, and Grapeville-Colleyville Independent School District disallowed a Scholastic Book Fair (which was then privately held by parents angered by this overstep of local government), among dozens of others. Right-wingers have developed some pretty outlandish conspiracy theories about book fairs, too. In one instance, a candidate for the Denton Independent School District school board claimed that Scholastic Book Fairs were enticing educators to indoctrinate students.

We are going to see this continued censorship of book fairs across schools this year as banners continue to look for new targets for their moral panic and conspiracy theories. To thank for what will be an increase in the immediate future? Brave Books. Indeed, the same group that asked right-wing Christofascists to “see them at the library” for a nationwide storytime of conservative children’s books is now campaigning for parents to see the kinds of books being sold at these book fairs.

The fear-mongering post by the publisher hit their social media feeds last week, creating a cascade of posts from right-wing groups like Moms For Liberty and others warning members to continue being vigilant and to demand knowing what is happening at school book fairs. The same people who say they are allowing access to books by letting them still be at public libraries or be sold to people have decided that, indeed, they were only saying that. They did not mean it.

What’s important to consider is how the messaging is packaged. First, it’s a series of images of quotes from several commonly banned books without a single lick of context to them. We know context makes no difference to censors, and yet seeing it so starkly manages to stoke the flames of people desperate to assert a false sense of control over the world around them.

Naturally, there’s more to this story. It’s Brave Books’s capitalist solution: their own book fairs.

Screen shot from the brave books website about their new book fairs.

Not only does Brave Books provide book banners with the language through which to demand books be removed from book fairs at schools — those cherry-picked quotes are precisely what you can see showing up in emails and at school board meetings by those who’ve been groomed by this agenda — but they offer those same people a solution to the problem.

You can’t call them book banners if they are running their own book fair, can you?

At the end of the day, it’s still the students who lose to these agendas. Students who can not only not get the books they want to read in the place where they spend 7+ hours a day — books that are both mirrors and windows to their actual world — but they cannot buy them when the book fair comes to their school, either. For the kids with no public library or the kids whose public libraries have been gutted by this same agenda, the same kids who continue to lose to the right-wing insistence on being pro-life despite a lack of social support or ban on the weapons that have become the leading cause of their death, the pain amplifies.

We know that the goal is to not only kill public institutions. It is also to ensure an uneducated populace eager to lap up the neatly developed agenda by a well-connected, well-funded network of christofascists.

Try not to be surprised as more and more hysteria surrounds book fairs as the 2023-2024 school year unfolds. It’s been happening, and with the new wave of manufactured outrage, it’s going to keep happening.

Book Censorship News: September 15, 2023

Seven Chicago-area libraries received bomb threats on Tuesday, following in the same pattern as the bomb threats that came last month. The seven libraries were Poplar Creek, Schaumburg, Aurora, Evanston, Addison, Libertyville, and Chicago’s Harold Washington Library. These came on the same day Illinois Secretary of State and State Librarian Alexi Giannoulias testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on book bans. These might not be related, given that these bomb threats have been happening before.

Following those threats were 8 more on Thursday. Libraries in the Chicagoland area which received bomb threats on September 14 included Joliet, Fountaindale, Addison, Oak Park, Chicago, Evanston, Aurora, and Crystal Lake.

That these have not stopped over the course of nearly a month is mind boggling, infuriating, and accomplishing precisely what is intended: fear.