You Can’t Read That!

You Can’t Read That! is a periodic post about book banning. YCRT! features news and opinion roundups, commentary, history, and reviews.

Books Behind Bars (illustration by Jane Mount for PBS)
YCRT! Flashback

This op-ed includes a history of the Roman Catholic Church’s Index Librorum Prohibitorum, the “List of Prohibited Books,” first published in 1557.

I Joined a Book Audit at My Kid’s School, Unwittingly Writing Myself into a Long History of Literary Censorship (Toronto Star)

In bookshop raids and cargo inspections alike, unauthorized Bibles and scriptural commentaries (including Protestant contraband) were first to be summarily confiscated and burned; also high on the list were works involving alchemy and freemasonry, and those of Catholic dissidents. Later targets included philosophers (Rousseau, Hume, Kant), political theorists (Hobbes, Locke, Adam Smith), scientists (Galileo, Copernicus), scores of writers (from Alexandre Dumas to Victor Hugo), and theologians. If those behind the Index had succeeded, works by these authors would have been scrubbed from human history.

This post, which outlines the history of book banning in the USA by way of addressing current concerns, underscores an eternal lesson: truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

Confronting Book Bans (Teachers College Press)

There is a long history of school book censorship in the United States, which occurs mainly in response to movements that challenge social injustices based on race, gender, and sometimes class. During the first half of the 19th century, books about the enslavement of people were seen as dangerous, especially in the South. It was not only illegal to teach enslaved people to read, but by the 1850s, multiple states had outlawed expressing anti-slavery views. In 1873, in an effort to push back on women’s activism, Congress passed the Comstock Act, outlawing possession (and mailing) of “obscene” or “immoral” texts—namely, texts about sexuality and birth control. During the first half of the twentieth century, the United Daughters of the Confederacy pushed to ban school textbooks that were not sympathetic to the South’s loss in the Civil War. During the late 1940s, several large corporations succeeded in banishing Harold Rugg’s social studies textbooks that openly criticized capitalism. Ten years later, McCarthy-era censors challenged books they deemed sympathetic to Communism or socialism, including Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

YCRT! News & Opinion Roundup

This is the teacher referred to in a previous YCRT! post, the one who got “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” banned from her town’s school libraries, prompting me to read & review the book. She’s everything this Wonkette article hints at.

Why Is a Florida High School English Teacher Trying to Ban Books? Could It Be … She’s Racist? (Wonkette)

[ … ] not all high school English teachers live up to the stereotype of being granola-chomping, Birkenstock-wearing vegans with Gaia/wiccan/Mondale for President bumper stickers on their Subaru wagons and Toyota Prii. Take Vicki Baggett (please!), a high school teacher in Escambia, Florida, who has filed challenges demanding the banning of nearly 150 books from school libraries in Escambia County.

Here’s a Shirley Jackson story come to life.

A Small Town Librarian Spoke against Censorship, Then the Dark Money Came for Her (New York Times podcast)

[ … ] I saw the post. And I started reading it, going down and seeing the comments. And as I went through the comments, my heart just sank because they were saying things like, where I worked and that they were going to come to my school. And I needed to be slapped, people calling me a pervert, a pig, a pedophile, a groomer. And it was mixed emotions. I’m laughing, I’m like, this can’t be serious. But then you realize it is serious. And they’re being serious. So I took a screenshot of it, and I sent it to my husband. And he said, oh, have you seen this one? And he sent me a screenshot. And it was another Facebook page called “Bayou State of Mind.” And that one had a picture that they had taken — one of my professional photographs for my professional website of my face. And they put my full name and the name of my school in the post and said, “This person advocates teaching anal sex to 11-year-olds.” I absolutely — I mean, I don’t talk about — my kids are 10, 11, 12. We don’t talk about sex at school. I’m a school librarian. We don’t talk about — we don’t talk — I would never say the word “anal sex” or talk about anal sex to 11-year-olds. It was mortifying. I’m like, who is seeing this? Are they going to believe this? Is this what people think — are going to think of me?

I’m certain this was exactly the intent of Montana lawmakers.

Montana’s New Sex Ed Law Ensnares English and History Lessons, Too (Missoulian)

Because of the law’s broad scope, some schools have decided to notify parents about topics that may not be obviously related to human sexuality. In Billings, for example, school administrators sent a notice to parents of high school students at the beginning of the school year that flagged literary works such as “The Great Gatsby” and “Romeo and Juliet” because they describe intimate relationships. History and U.S. government lessons involving civil rights and certain U.S. Supreme Court cases are on the list. So, too, are biology classes that involve sexual reproduction — even nonhuman reproduction.

What’s sauce for the goose …

Chesapeake Schools ‘Don’t Have a Choice’ When It Comes to Allowing ‘Satan Club’: Law Professor (WTKR, Hampton Roads, Virginia)

One mom, Melanie Ballard, believes a satan club will shape her young son’s mind in a sinister way.

… is sauce for the gander.

Kirk Cameron Blasts Libraries That Deny Faith-Based Book Yet Embrace Drag Queens (Washington Examiner)

Cameron called on conservative parents and grandparents to follow his example and request to read their favorite children’s story in libraries hosting drag queen story hours “to turn that denial into a revival.”

BTW, there’s a bit more to the Kirk Cameron story.

Woke Libraries Won’t Let Kirk Cameron Groom Kids with Anti-LGBTQ+ Hate, How Rude! (Wonkette)

[ …] Kirk Cameron is a victim, because if drag queens are allowed to do story hours at libraries, why can’t he read his fascist Christian hate book to innocent children? Fox News is leading the chorus of lamentations, claiming that Cameron has hit up more than 50 libraries, and they have all told him to go eat a fuck in hell. Fox says Kirk Cameron “cannot reach scores of American children or their families” because of this censorship tyranny. (Sounds creepy.) They bitch and moan that these libraries have Drag Queen Story Hours and other gay events. They put “drag queen” in scare quotes, like it’s a new term.

Want to know the sort of thing being passed around on the other side? Hint: they really hate libraries!

5 Public Libraries Out of 116,867 Reported Threats and American Library Association Sprinted to FBI (The Published Reporter)

Does the American Library Association’s (ALA) Executive Board want the FBI to crack down on freedom of speech and the right to peaceful demonstrations by parents and community members over drag queen entertainment (Drag Queen Story House) in public libraries and making LGBTQ books with pornographic depictions available to minors.

One thought on “You Can’t Read That!

  • Per a previous post: others have taken up tracking news reports of book bans and challenges, notably Book Riot and the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Blog (whose coverage is remarkably detailed and thorough). I’ll continue to read and review banned books here, but as for news roundups, I’m shifting my focus to articles and op-eds of broader interest. YCRT! posts aren’t going away, but they’ll likely grace the front page of Paul’s Thing less often.

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