You Can’t Read That! is a periodic post about book banning. YCRT! features news and opinion roundups, commentary, history, and reviews.
YCRT News & Opinion Roundup
As Doctorow says, libraries are the last place in America where you’re a person, not a customer. Something about that concept must really bother the Koch Brothers.
They Want to Kill Libraries (Cory Doctorow)
The “groomer” panic is all astroturf. It’s a cynical ploy to whip up scared and easily confused people and point them at libraries, and not just libraries that have Genderqueer on the shelf or host Drag Queen Story Hours. They’re targeting all the libraries. They’re targeting the very idea of libraries.
In Michigan, where Nancy Nall lives, a GOP gubernatorial candidate made dirty books a campaign issue.
Dirty Books (Nancy Nall)
And that is the whole point of literature. To hold a mirror to the world, all of it. Children should be guided in their choice of reading material by adults, but not dictated to. … In a just world, any child entering a school library in search of reading material should be treated with trumpets and salutes. If a plain old book can cut through the static of TikTok, homework, over-scheduling and the million other things competing for their attention, give that author the Nobel Prize. That’s an accomplishment.
Making a list of good YA books for honors English students? Better watch who sees it.
Book banners are searching out lists online that are aimed at finding good sources to teach age-appropriate sex ed, or lists of books starring Black main characters, or lists of LGBTQ-friendly picture books, or lists of books to teach social-emotional learning — and they’re using these resources as book banning target practice.
An embattled school librarian fights back.
Speaking Out Against Censorship & Speaking Up for Myself (Amanda Jones, Defender of Wonder)
Since July 19th, I have been in a battle to stand up to bullies who are attacking me and our public library’s efforts to ensure that all students are safe, respected, and free to learn. As a mother, and a lifelong resident of our community, I spoke at a local public library board meeting about the importance of books and materials that reflect the reality of our children’s’ world, and that engage them in learning. In response, harassers are using harmful and divisive language to hurt my reputation, threaten me and my family, and frighten me into silence.
Another embattled librarian, going it alone with no support from her chickenshit bosses.
Throughout the stand-off, book banners claimed, “It’s not a ban. The books are still available at the public library or Amazon.” But the kid with questions about gender or sexuality may not have transportation to the library and likely doesn’t have a credit card for online ordering. And for teens living in a home hostile to gender or sexual diversity, the school library may be the only safe space to explore these topics and develop the vocabulary for deeper conversations.
Now you mention it, yes, Marjorie Taylor Green does come to mind.
The Right-Wing Mothers Fuelling the School-Board Wars (The New Yorker)
When the women in T-shirts first showed up, Welch had never heard of Moms for Liberty, and he didn’t recognize its members. The group’s leader, Robin Steenman, was in her early forties, with shoulder-length blond hair; in coloring and build, she resembled Marjorie Taylor Greene. Board of Education members struggled to understand why she’d inserted herself into a matter that didn’t concern her: Steenman had no children in the public schools.
Training your children to rat out their teachers? Stalin would approve.
‘My son is in 7th grade and a student of [the teacher] who teaches Reading Comprehension,’ the post read. ‘He told me that she had been bringing the book ‘Gender Queer’ into her class and displaying it on her desk. He first noticed it the beginning of September and he told me that he observed her many times reading the book to herself which was on top of her desk and open while he and his classmate’s completed coursework.’
Well, this is different from the usual run of library protests!
Amid a nationwide campaign to dehumanize trans people, the Wake County Public Libraries have added Johnny the Walrus to their collection, a transphobic picture book that compares being transgender to pretending to be a walrus. Johnny the Walrus, published in November 2021, was written by Matt Walsh, a conservative columnist for The Daily Wire and anti-trans activist. In a podcast last year, Walsh compared gender-affirming medical care for trans youth to “molestation and rape.”
Somehow, in this country, it always comes down to race.
Why Book Bans and Voter Suppression Go Hand in Hand (Los Angeles Times)
In the lead-up to the midterm elections, mainstream media attention focused some — though not enough — on voter suppression efforts, but too little attention was paid to the book bans that are metastasizing in states across the country. The same factions that have tried to gerrymander their way into power are trying to gerrymander our education, suppressing the ideas and lessons that hold the keys to what we have long endeavored to become: a fully inclusive multiracial democracy.
Hey, ACLU, let’s don’t give the Supreme Court any ideas, okay?
Take Books off Shelves, Ask Questions Later? That’s Un-American, Unconstitutional (The State/Columbia SC)
At a recent public comment session in the Upstate, a budding young reader told his county council members, “If you don’t like a book, don’t read it.”
The First Amendment’s guarantee of the freedom of speech, and the right to access information has created a beautiful marketplace of ideas in our country. Each of us gets to choose what books we read and what information we access — but we don’t get to choose for other people. Doing so is un-American and unconstitutional.