My Book Was Banned Again — This Time In Retaliation for My Anti-Censorship Work: Book Censorship News, November 10, 2023

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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.

This week, Clay County Schools in Florida became the third school district to ban my book Body Talk. This came in direct retaliation for my reporting on the county’s lead book banner and one of the most prolific book banners in the entire country, Bruce Friedman, last November. Of course, Bruce’s name has gotten more attention since — little credited to me for breaking the story — but most of those journalists have not seen their books banned in response to doing their job.

Below is a screenshot from Bruce’s massive list of books he considers inappropriate. The rationale behind mine? “Hit piece.” The folks in Clay County went ahead with it.

Image from Bruce's spreadsheet of naughty books that includes reasoning why he thinks those books deserve to be targeted. You can see the clear logic in mine.

My book is not the first nor the last to be banned in Clay County. Hell, like I said, this isn’t the first time my book has been banned. But in straight retaliation for my work on censorship? That’s a new one.

Perhaps the worst part of it is this: Steve Martin’s Shopgirl was also banned recently, though in Collier County, Florida, alongside 300-some others. The media has breathlessly fawned over his response that banning the book makes him proud because it means the book will sell more copies. Not only is that bullshit, it’s ignorant and once again pushes the anticensorship movement back, just like Stephen King did in his infamous tweet telling kids to get to the public library if a book is banned at their school (the public libraries are targets, too).

Google search for "book removed" with several stories about Steve Martin.
Google search for "book ban" with several stories about Steve Martin.
Google results for the terms book pulled with stories about steve martin's response.
Google results for the terms book pulled with stories about steve martin's response.

So what are those of us who aren’t a white guy with power and privilege supposed to do when our books are banned? The mainstream media isn’t covering it, and mainstream media is also not bothering to highlight that the removal of Martin’s book comes after LITERAL YEARS of this happening across the country. How cute grown adults could just crank up the sales on a book by a celebrity. Screw the kids or the folks who have been trying to end censorship for years, eh? One Google search with a link to how to respond could have made an impact.

Reporting on book bans has put my own work on the line, and every time I sit down to write about it, I feel selfish for asking for a lifeline.

But here it is: my book keeps being banned. First, because of claims it is “pornographic.” Now, because of my work here, which has frequently been borrowed weeks or months after I’ve written it by outlets without attribution, it’s also banned in retaliation.

How can anyone expect we will get out of this if the people putting their necks out there are getting them chopped off in the process? So that the clicks can go to the ignorance on full display by white men with power and the capacity to change things, but who are instead doing nothing but enjoying the attention? We know this all impacts more marginalized folks even deeper because it’s historic. Systemic. A pastime in America.

I guess I should be grateful to no longer be part of the 86% now that I’ve been banned in more than two districts. I am angry and hurt, as much as I am feeling frustrated and bitter. I know these are the precise feelings meant to be happening, and I also know that the effect of silencing me and others like me is the goal…and you know, it’s getting closer and closer to working. Every morning, I wake up and wonder how much more I can punch myself in the face.

There are no roadmaps for this. Retaliatory book banning is a new one.

Book Censorship News: November 10, 2023

  • Two big wins for public libraries this week following the elections. It was good at the polls for most school districts, too — but I deeply caution everyone reporting about how great it is that Moms For Liberty got a lot of losses to remember that Moms For Liberty is not the only regressive, book banning, public education destroying group out there. They’ve just got the cutest nicknames. Many folks won this week who are equally regressive but just aren’t affiliated in name with that group. The fight is far, far, far from over, even if there are some battles won.
  • Collier County Schools (FL) have removed 313 books from its schools in accordance with the book banning laws in the state. Didn’t they say this was not about banning books?
  • School board elections happened in several states this week. A common theme? They were expensive: here’s a report from Minnesota and the $600,000 report from Central Bucks (PA).
  • In Pine-Richland School District (PA), the community elected book banners to the board.