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Giving Up Is Not an Option: Book Censorship News, March 3, 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.

We’re all tired.

The coordinated attacks on everything from Drag Queen story hours to Pride displays to individual books in libraries is going into its second year.

While many have been waking up to this — which happens when it’s not just in those red communities, but in your own as well — we’re hitting the point of quitting.

In this week’s recap of the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute, the response to book bans was a resounding…we don’t have solutions.

What do you mean you don’t have solutions?

As the largest organization for booksellers whose majority are not public employees and thus, not subject to the laws and governance of the public, this level of giving up is complicity. It is lazy, it is unethical, and it’s blatantly incorrect.

How many of us have laid out the solutions for you, week after week, day after day, for nearly two years? Who have done the work for you in writing talking points, in petitions, in tireless and often thankless (and stolen and uncredited) work that exposes exactly who is behind the rise of fascism book bans.

The solution is showing up to the polls.

The solution is writing to your representatives.

The solution is informing your customers through accurate, up-to-date information, more than a book display highlighting the same tired white men classics wheeled out every time it’s convenient to make a buck, rather than educate or enlighten communities about what’s really at stake — and who.

The solution is running for school and library board.

The solution is showing the fuck up.

It is not sitting back, shrugging your shoulders, then thinking other big organizations which have also done absolutely nothing — ALA doesn’t answer the phone when members call, their Unite Against Book Bans puts more space on their homepage to selling T-shirts than showcasing what is happening right now (they do not even have a petition for those in Oklahoma or other states pushing for book rating systems in their legislatures — no one cares it’s against best practices if there is no actual weight behind enforcing those best practices), and publishers have not been doing work beyond when they can make a buck off book sales (some don’t even reach out to their own authors when their books are under fire).

Mealy mouthed neutrality is what the censors want.

If you want solutions, look to those risking it all to offer it.

Giving up is complicity. Worrying about your sales when you’re a private business, rather than spending time educating yourself or your clients how they can ensure First Amendment rights for all is complicity.

And here’s the thing that makes this so enraging: many of those who are part of these organizations or companies do not take this nonsense stance of neutrality or inaction. Many are begging for help.

The problem is, money matters more than people.

Capitalism is driving censorship and we’re going to soon become a nation where only those with money, who are straight and white and Christian and aligned with the right, will be able to get what they want. Everyone else will be begging for a cup of water in a blistering desert.

It’s almost exactly what happened with abortion, isn’t it? There are pregnant folks dying in Florida and Tennessee and Texas because they don’t have access to abortion, because they are in states where they are required by law to give birth, even to unviable fetuses.

And yet someone like Jessa Duggar can get one without a second thought. (Though, of course, those stories are cloaked under lies and falsehoods — “miscarriage” via a dilation and curettage — by mainstream media, which also treats censorship like it’s not a thing).

Solutions are only lacking if you’re not looking, and the only looking that seems to be happening is at money.

Not people.

Book Censorship News: March 3, 2023

  • St. Tammany Parish Public Libraries (Louisiana) will have to put any graphic material, as defined by the Attorney General who has a snitch line set up, behind the service desks. This is fascism.
  • The Upside of Unrequited will be removed from Sparta, New Jersey, middle school.
  • Students in a St. George, Utah, high school created an anti-censorship club because they’re tired of not being listened to about books accessible to them.
  • Noted and proud book banner Bruce Friedman claims he’s responsible for nearly 300 books being removed from Clay County, Florida schools. Fun story: when I wrote about Bruce’s interest in being arbiter of all things appropriate books last year, he decided my books should be banned, too.
  • “Abilene City Manager, Robert Hanna, noted that most of the books mentioned are found in the adult sections. He says this topic is very personal to him, and he takes it very seriously. ‘“’And to think that I don’t or suggest that I don’t is offensive. I’m offended. I’m offended by some of the stuff you’ve read. I wish to God I could pull it from the shelves. That’s not the way the law works. I apologize for being emotional on this topic, but it is something very dear to me.'” Despite a small vocal minority demanding policy changes at Abilene Public Library (Texas), they couldn’t ram through the plans without seeking legal counsel. Shock!
  • In Midland Public Library (Texas), there’s an ongoing dispute over book donations and how many books being given to the library are on the Kraus list of inappropriate titles. This story continues to get weirder.
  • Louisiana librarians are scared to do their jobs. I don’t blame them.
  • “With the policy, a committee of five parents, a teacher and a school administrator would look at the book being challenged and take 15 minutes to review it in-depth.” This is de-professionalization and absolutely offensive to the institution of education and practice of literacy and it’s now the policy when book challenges arise in Indian River schools (Florida). They don’t ban books, though. Kids can get them at the bookstore. Didn’t Stephen King say that?
  • 60+ books are being reviewed in Central Bucks School District (Pennsylvania) for potential removal. The books are the usual suspects.
  • Still a lot of nonsense arguments over a book ban bill in Iowa. You can’t compare what is put on a T-shirt to what is inside a book.
  • “The Beaufort County School District (South Carolina) will spend at least $8,500 on the review process of 97 books taken off shelves last fall for potential adult and racial content.” What a waste of taxpayer resources.
  • The good news is the police say there is not porn in the Chilliwack schools (British Columbia, Canada). Yeah, go ahead and read that sentence again.
  • This new bill in Michigan would close a library indefinitely if it had “inappropriate” material.
  • I want to know 1. if this is a true story — seeing who the source is makes me skeptical — and 2. if it is, why would the teacher put a kid on the spot like that? The book should not be banned in any case. (Wake County, North Carolina).
  • How conservative “activists” in an Oregon County went from challenging books at the public library to the public schools. It’s mostly going unchallenged, too, because people aren’t paying attention (and/or don’t care).
  • Three books will remain on shelves in Carroll schools (Iowa).
  • Buried in this report on the legislative sessions in Indiana is a note about how over 100 “pornographic books” were removed from Northwest Allen County Schools.
  • In minimal good news out of Duval County (Florida), the Roberto Clemente biography is back on shelves.
  • Fallbrook Union High School District (California) met this week to hear from someone appealing the decision of the board to keep Beyond Magenta on shelves. No update as of writing, which is hopeful news.
  • “Higgs objected to the novel ‘The Marrow Thieves,’ by Cherie Dimaline, claiming it contains anti-white and anti-Catholic themes, uses profanity and depicts human sexuality and sexual acts.” Bozeman Public Schools (Montana) rejected her challenge. The book will remain.
  • Between The World and Me was banned in Woodland Park schools (Colorado). Here’s more.
  • Another bananas public library story. In Marshalltown, Iowa, the library director said she would not be subscribing to — even with donated money — two magazines. One of them is Epoch Times, a known propaganda and misinformation joint. The person in this editorial suggests this is censorship…it’s not. It’s sound collection development. Libraries collect facts, not mis- and disinformation. The second magazine is a joint of the NRA, so I can also see why the director would choose not to stock a magazine from an organization KILLING CHILDREN ACROSS THE COUNTRY. But yeah, it’s the same thing as queer books for teens.
  • Lapeer District Library (Michigan) rescheduled a meeting to discuss whether or not Gender Queer belongs in the public library because too many people showed up.
  • And this is another bizarre story of how a public library board structure is being changed to accommodate book banners — the Phillips Public Library (Wisconsin) apparently has been dealing with 30+ challenges over the last year.
  • Gender Queer is under fire at Windham/Raymond school district (Maine).
  • Ten books were taken off the shelves at Siloam Springs public library (Arkansas) after a patron complained about them. A patron complained, so the books were removed pending “investigation.” This is the definition of censorship. Kids! Cannot! Just! Get! These! Books! At! The! Public! Library!
  • This little book crisis actress doesn’t even have kids in the schools where she’s performing (Catawba County, North Carolina).
  • “The League City council [Texas] voted 5-3 for an ordinance that will ban the use of tax dollars to purchase or stock selected books in the League City Library. In December, Mayor Pro Temp Andy Mann and Councilman Justin Hicks added a resolution that proposes books that contain obscenity, including rape, gender ideology, pedophilia, and or incest, be removed from the Young Adults section of the Helen Hall Library.” Seeing this kinda thing put Llano in court, I can’t wait for the lawsuits here. Kids! Cannot! Just! Get! These! Books! At! The! Public! Library!
  • And more parents playing book police/book crisis saviors in Chippewa Valley, Michigan.
  • I’m not sure how much more I can explain that Moms For Liberty and Ron DeSantis are in bed together.
  • “In addition to complaints about libraries’ leadership and advisory board, the regular Drag Queen Story Hour was attacked as ‘grooming’ children and child abuse.” This is Washoe County Library System (Nevada).
  • Here’s an unhinged letter to the editor about how the Chetco Library needs to install more right-wing board members because current board members won’t ban books on demand (Oregon).
  • There’s been a date set for a public hearing to dissolve an entire public library in Idaho, and though it wouldn’t matter what size public library this were happening to, know this is one of the BIGGEST in the state.
  • I’m unable to open the article because of a paywall, but three books–Tricks, Lucky, and Out of Darkness have been banned at a Kentucky school district (Campbell County).
  • “Two dozen books, many with LGBTQ+ themes, could soon be banned from the Greenville County Library System [SC]. A copy of each of the 24 books currently on the chopping block has been temporarily removed from circulation, as part of a review process by the library system’s board of trustees.” So they’ve been banned before they’ve even been reviewed. Reminder: this is the PUBLIC library.
  • At the Kerrville Public Library (TX), which dealt with a host of pushback for having a Banned Books Display last fall, they’re still dealing with complaints at board meetings. The kicker is this: no actual complaints are being filed. These people want to be actors, not “activists.”
  • Sioux Valley School District (SD) voted to keep The Perks of Being a Wallflower available to students.
  • The first of 15 books under review at Greeley-Evens Schools (CO) should have a decision on them soon. Meanwhile, the district has a page you can monitor progress. What a tremendous use of taxpayer money. /s
  • The Idaho House Education Committee has killed the book ban bill. Don’t expect to not see it reemerge, though, especially as other states ram these through.
  • Keene Public Library (NE), which has been at the center of two book challenges, now has a new policy where parents of those 11 and younger can…demand books be moved from the children’s section to another area of the library. I guess that’s sure how this works. Let the public decide, rather than the trained staff.
  • Dumb new book policies in Clay County (FL). I’m curious how they’ll handle the thousands of upcoming challenges from Bruce Friedman.
  • “A Frederick County Public Schools [MD] committee of 59 educators, parents, students and community members will begin reviewing 35 challenged library books on Thursday.” Those numbers are absolutely ridiculous. How are 59 people going to agree on whether or not books stay? Anyway, here are the first 35 books being reviewed.