Anti-censorship advocates and activists have shouted from the rooftops that it is essential to vote. That it is essential to show up to school and library board meetings and speak up about/write those who sit on those boards against book bans and censorship. Advocates and activists have been on the front lines in their respective state legislatures and, where possible, on the national level.
But where and how do we move from advocating against draconian legislation and shift into preparing for those bills to be passed?
And when and where do those living under such laws make the decisions that will have a direct impact on the young people they serve?
These questions are hard ones to answer, but they are worth chewing over. We’ve seen already the way that proposed legislation in Texas and Florida have impacted the decisions teachers and librarians are making to protect themselves and their employers from being out of compliance. HB 1069, Florida’s expansion of the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation, is not set to go into effect until July 1, and yet, Escambia County Publics Schools have already had books challenged citing the law.
With the final vote on Texas’s HB 900 imminent — which would require book vendors to rate the sexual content in every book as either “sexually relevant” or “sexually explicit” — how do we move the needle from fighting against its passage to proactively preparing for what it will do to school bookshelves? HB 900 requires books earning the explicit content to be barred from entering public schools and those deemed relevant may require parental permission to access. The bill is purposefully worded to make determining the appropriate rating nearly impossible, putting the onus of disagreement between vendor and any adult who picks up the book onto the vendor; in other words, it is fertile ground for rising lawsuits pitting “community standards” and “parental rights” activists against vendors.
These questions have no good answers.
There’s been a meme floating around the internet in recent weeks that demands we sit with what the messaging truly means and why so many feel compelled to share it.
The meme has a number of visual backgrounds, but the text is the same: “live your life so that if it were a book, it would be banned in Florida.” Even the most open minded library workers, educators, and anti-book censorship activists have been sharing it without giving it critical thought. Yes, live your life as you need to. But what about the people who live in Florida now whose lives are being legislated down to whether or not they’re allowed to use the bathroom based on the genitalia they have? Who cannot access the life-saving medication (yes, hormones are life-saving medications)? Who can be abducted BY THE STATE if they’re receiving gender-affirming healthcare? Who will not learn about Black history in high school or college, who will not learn about discrimination, equality, or inclusion at any level of public education?
What about the teens in Texas not allowed to access books about safe sex while also having a law on the books banning abortion? What about the queer kid in Arkansas who legally cannot have their pronouns used by those who see them every single day at school?
These are real lives being put in real danger by legislation that seeks to eradicate anyone who is not a cishet white Christian. They are not funny, they are not memes, and they want what any other human being wants and deserves: to live their life.
It is far easier to share a meme and laugh about it than to pause and sit with what it means when books will be made entirely inaccessible to hundreds of thousands of young people by law.
It is far easier to share a meme than it is to show up and advocate on behalf of the people being put to slaughter.
We cannot wait and expect a single lawsuit will solve the problem because it will not. The biggest publisher in the world waited over two years to do anything while so many people without any power, money, time, or connections showed up again and again and again, begging to be heard. Begging to be see.
What do we do now that we’re here?
Because we’re here. We’ve been here.
The era of advocacy isn’t over, nor should it be. But we’re now entering an era of preparing for living under these fascist laws borne of opinion gained through the destruction of information literacy, truth, endless media paywalls hiding fact but making fiction easily accessible, and social media that rewards engagement and nothing else.
How do we change the messaging and help those who can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t need to leave their homes? Who deeply believe in helping people be people, encouraging minors to live their truths and be supported in doing so?
Because at the end of the day, that’s what matters. If you’re going to live your life like a book that would be banned in Florida, your ass better be on the ground, in the capitol buildings, in those classrooms and libraries, begging the media to do better, doing everything you can to help the people who have no other options.
Book Censorship News: May 26, 2023
- Peter White Public Library (MI) will keep This Book Is Gay on shelves. Go to this one for the photo of crowd cheering this decision.
- This Book Is Gay was returned to Iowa City School libraries (IA).
- “The enhanced policy requires complainants to have read the book in full, limits residents to submitting one book a month and prevents them from copying word-for-word other critiques about the book in their complaint.” Good policies make for good libraries, y’all. Queer books won’t be banned in York County Public libraries (SC).
- Two queer YA books will remain where they are in Minot Public Library (ND).
- Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb was banned in Miami Lakes, Florida. I’m keen on the complainant noting they don’t need professional reviews of the book because they know it’s indoctrination. It was part of several books removed from the Miami-Dade School District…and I’d tell you the other ones, but the newspaper has it paywalled.
- The Park County School District (WY) is going to implement a 1-5 rating scale for books…only if they’re challenged. This makes no sense.
- Hudsonville Public Schools (MI) have banned the war memoir Jughead.
- The Brandywine Schools (MI) have been duped into believing a YouTube video made by right-wingers about porn addiction. Remember: these folks are ostensibly interested in education. The video is from this group. They’re taking it seriously.
- Assassination Classroom is being challenged in Orange County Schools (FL) because a mom heard about it from another mom in another county.
- Oceola County Schools (FL) will be keeping Assassination Classroom. Come to this article for the uncritical use of BookLooks as legitimate resource.
- Don’t get excited though. Oceola County (FL) decided to quietly remove tons of other books.
- Not keen on the reporting — calling advocates “feisty” is degrading — but the folks who are for First Amendment Rights for all have raised enough money to put up billboards in Saline County, Arkansas, that challenge the ones up proclaiming there is porn in the library.
- More from the Illinois teacher who left her position when a parent complained that kids could…sample lot of books and choose one they might like to read.
- Queer books will NOT be banned in Brandon Schools (Manitoba, Canada).
- Parents at Attleboro Public Schools (MA) want to ban books including The Kite Runner, since they’re creative.
- “The state Board of Education is slated next week to consider a new rule that would lead to Florida’s education commissioner publishing an annual list of library books and instructional materials that people have objected to, carrying out part of a controversial 2022 law.” This will only lead to more book bans.
- Four new books have been challenged in Central Bucks Schools (PA). They’re up to 65 now. You can access the entire list here.
- Council Rock School Board (PA) wants you to know they won’t be banning books by…banning books.
- I’m paywalled because the media is complicit, but there’s been an appeal to the decision from Greeley Schools (CO) to keep Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian.
- “I know that book bans, generally, historically have talked about things like, ‘1984,’ they talked about things, like American classics. We’re not having that conversation anymore,” he said. “If you go over to the young adult section, there are books that promote Critical Race Theory. There are books that promote a homosexual lifestyle. They promote it.” Those words come from a trustee on the Lake Luzerne Public Library board because he does not want to pass resolution against book bans.
- Hanover County Schools (VA) just got a list of 100-some books that bigots want banned.
- Moms for Liberty are complaining about 65 books in Santa Rosa Schools (FL).
- A Kalamazoo area public school (MI) has banned Gender Queer. I can’t tell you which school because the media loves paywall.
- “Florida’s state education department rejected two new Holocaust-focused textbooks for classroom use, while forcing at least one other textbook to alter a passage about the Hebrew Bible in order to meet state approval.” Why? CRT.
- A bill in Louisiana that would restrict access to books in the public library to teens and children is advancing. Remember: THEY’RE COMING FOR PUBLIC LIBRARIES, TOO.
- Caro Area District Library (MI) is dealing with book challenges to several sex ed related books. The district had to change their public speaking policy which is, shocker, now also causing drama for the book crisis actors.
- “A Temecula mother has complained that her 15-year-old daughter was made to read a sexually explicit play in drama class and is calling for a policy to prevent such instances in the future.” The play is Angels in America and the mom got her pastor to show up and complain, too (CA).
- The ACLU is unhappy with plans at Ludlow Schools (MA) that would ban tons of books — most queer, of course.
- Wake County Schools (NC) will now be banning any “perversely vulgar” books from school libraries. Who cares what that means.
- Another paywalled article, but individuals were mad about the Columbia County Library (GA) having queer books.
- In a sign of rational thinking, the mayor of Liberty Lakes, Washington, has vetoed the plan the library board had to make them the decision makers on all things in the library.
- Bonners Ferry Public Library (ID) held their first reconsideration meetings this week over several Ellen Hopkins books. The media has yet to report the outcome, but the right-wing radicals opposed to the books shared the books WILL stay on shelves.
- The current landscape of book challenges in Connecticut.
- And the landscape in neighboring Massachusetts.
- “Seery said all 10 of the book complaints have come from community members who don’t have children in the schools where the books are.” You don’t say? (Papillion-La Vista, Nebraska).
- A bizarre story about a rumor concerning removal of queer books at the Wenatchee Schools (WA). Only one book is in the collection and the individuals who created the fervor over the books never actually followed through on their complaints…even though they were invited to look through the school library.
- Three families in Montgomery County, Maryland, filed a lawsuit against the school for having queer books in its library.
- Nine books at Roxbury Schools (NJ) will not be “temporarily” removed from shelves while they’re being reviewed for potential banning. One’s already been pulled.
- “A Florida public library system’s ‘I Read Banned Books’ library cards are drawing concern from a Republican lawmaker who said the county agency is engaging in ‘a political stunt’ with taxpayer money and warned it could generate financial retaliation by the state.” The public library system in Broward County being bullied by a lawmaker. This is called fascism.