There are a lot of bad takes this week on the whys and hows of the growing firestorm of book challenges. I’m not going to link to them, but the reality is this isn’t new, media that’s reporting on “firsts” for any area are behind the curve by months (thanks, death of local journalism), and no, it’s not school boards who are willy nilly banning books. These complaints are coming from grown adults who may or may not live in a community and more often than not, they’re aligned with right-wing groups funded by a lot of dark money. Moms of Liberty — currently putting a bounty on teachers who talk about systemic racism — is but one of many of such groups across the United States, typically spearheaded by a failed or hopeful politician. They share information across public and private social media tools (here’s a great example of an extremist group gearing up their followers to at protest one school board meeting this week). These groups put board members in a position of being on the defense, and in many cases board members need to be escorted to their vehicles after a meeting because their literal safety is at risk.
Are there folks on the inside starting these censorship calls? Sure. But the vast majority are not, and in a not-insignificant number of cases lately, the adults who are complaining aren’t parents of students in the district.
Rather than offer any insights or clear up any misconceptions roaring around this week’s censorship news, I’m just going to list them. In many ways, this is a really useful way to see just how widespread this issue is. I’m going to miss many stories, and that’s part of the point: it’s impossible to keep up. Note that this may be mostly not-great news, but there ARE some positive developments here.
As always, here’s the tool kit for what you can do to combat censorship in your community and beyond. Spend an hour this weekend writing letters, planning a visit to your local school and library board meetings in support of intellectual freedom, and requesting books for and from your local library.
Something else to be aware of: the same groups that are pushing anti-antiracism with their anti-“CRT” movement that conveniently includes anyone who isn’t straight, too, is going to start coming hard for mental health. They’re already protesting social emotional learning, and the next logical step is the books that talk about mental health. (This is, of course, the same groups that complain students are miserable and why won’t anyone help them. The fault lies, conveniently, in mask mandates or virtual learning or any other anti-science scapegoat).
- Clear Creek ISD in Texas has adults angry over sex ed books.
- Canyons School District in Utah has pulled nine books from high school libraries.
- What happened when an extremist group showed up to protest books at the Downers Grove, Illinois, school board meeting (this piece is one I’m referencing earlier suggesting this is new in Illinois — it’s not).
- Columbia, Maryland, school district dealing with extremists who are mad about queer literature in libraries.
- Denton Public Library in Texas canceled their Rainbow Story Time after receiving threats.
- Indian River County Florida schools have pulled some books, believing that Moms for Liberty is a concerned moms group and not a right-wing funded hate group. Here are the books.
- The Flathead area public library district ImagineIF in Montana received two formal book complaints. Guess what they are.
- Good news: the school district where board members suggested burning books has rescinded their vote to remove them.
- Hey, Kiddo is the book they’re fighting in Urbandale, Iowa, schools.
- Related: Iowa high school students are not staying silent on censorship.
- The school board president in Flagler County Florida believes it is a crime four books are in the library. The crime being the dogwhistle word “obscenity.”
- Books about puberty and health are targeted in Liberty, Texas (ironic).
- The Texas education board is trying to decide how books should be selected for school libraries, which used to be left up to…the libraries and trained professionals working in them.
- South Carolina state government launching an investigation into Gender Queer in school libraries.
- Keller ISD in Texas has adults saying that school board members need to investigate what’s in school libraries or be fired.
- The public library in Victoria, Texas, is under fire for queer books in their library.
- Lafayette Parish Libraries in Louisiana are solving challenges they have by moving all teen nonfiction into the adult section. Congrats — it’s still censorship!
- Tyler ISD in Texas has parents comparing queer books in school libraries akin to what you’d see in Penthouse.
- Did you think the book challenge in Central York, Pennsylvania, was over? Not even close, and again, it’s marginalized teens being forced to do the work.
- Canutillo, Texas, school district being asked to remove Gender Queer.
- Anchorage Alaska school district removes Gender Queer from their school libraries.
- Katy Texas ISD, which was mad about New Kid earlier this school year, is now trying to get rid of a bunch of other books, following in the steps of neighboring Waller ISD.
- In Tennessee, Williamson County school district is reviewing several books after complaints. There’s an angry rant here about breeding seahorses, the Civil Rights Movement, and how dark and depressing these books are.
- In Georgia, state representatives are working on how they can control what is and is not allowed in school libraries.
- This one’s a blast from the past, as Sherman Alexie’s YA novel is under pressure in Lawrence County, Ohio.
- Fort Mill, South Carolina, schools made the decision to remove Gender Queer from the library.
- Moms for Liberty complaining about the same books they’re obsessed with in Bedford, Virginia.
Let’s end with something that feels like the right place to end. Malinda Lo, who took home the honor of National Book Award winner in this year’s category for Young People’s Literature with her queer, Asian American historical novel Last Night at the Telegraph Club, shared a powerful message about censorship going on right now. The parallels to some of the discussions in her book to what’s happening across the country with censorship are chilling:
Also In This Story Stream
- The Book Banners’ Recruitment Agenda: Book Censorship News, February 3, 2023
- An Open Letter to Stephen King: Book Censorship News, January 27, 2023
- Proposed Legislation in Several States to Eliminate LGBTQ+, “Obscene” Books: Book Censorship News, January 20, 2023
- Three Future Targets for Book Censors: Book Censorship News, January 13, 2023
- What Anti-Censorship Groups Are Actively Fighting Book Bans?: Book Censorship News, January 6, 2023
- Set Your Anti-Censorship Resolutions: Book Censorship News, December 30, 2022