Conservative parents in America push for book ban – and unwittingly make reading cool again | Education in the United States

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MParents and fathers stormed into Spotsylvania County, Va., Town hall in early November, determined to purge all “objectionable” books from school jurisdiction. Novels with commentary on race, sexuality and sexual content have come under a microscope, as a new reactionary panic attacks the piles of high school libraries. “Results for gay, 172. Results for heterosexual, two, ”said Christina Burris, one of the parents in attendance, who used the district’s search function to make her point. The council relented, voting 6-0 to order liquidation.

One of the specifically targeted books was 33 Snowfish, an acclaimed 2003 novel about a trio of runaway teenagers and all kinds of sordid kidding behavior. Concerned parents in northern Virginia believed the intoxicating themes of poverty, drug addiction, and abuse had no place in the sanctuary of learning, and therefore the book had to go.

When Paul Cymrot heard about the reunion, he tracked down as many copies of 33 Snowfish as he could find. He soon discovered, ironically, that this book was never really in the school library. 33 Snowfish is barely printed, and Cymrot tells me it was an ebook version, lingering in a dusty corner of the school library servers, which sparked the initial animus.

Moral activism immediately backfired, as Cymrot knows a good business opportunity when he sees one. He has owned Riverby Books in the Spotsylvania region for 25 years and has a keen nose for the ebb and flow of the publishing market. A bookseller’s truth remains eternally undefeated, explains Cymrot. When a censor zeitgeist swallows a novel, many people will want to buy it.

“It was not easy to find a box full of 33 Snowfish, but we did it, ”he continues. “We sold everything we bought and we kept a few as lenders because we wanted to make sure all the students in the community could see what it was about. There will always be around here. “

Now it’s easier than ever to read 33 Snowfish in Spotsylvania County, overthrowing the right-wing siege on the supposed awakened plot infecting school libraries.

Disturbing new headlines on book bans are coming in all the time. This month, Texas State Representative Matt Krause lobbied for the ousting of 850 pounds, including classics by Alan Moore and Margaret Atwood, from the public program. Days earlier, parents in Kansas City stormed school conventions because they fear their children are starting to internalize the wisdom of Alison Bechdel or Angie Thomas. At the Spotsylvania meeting, two board members pitched the idea of ​​literally burning the offending titles, which would be an attack on both our precious standards and our precious subtext.

As always, the Mania Momentum is straightforward, silly, and cynical. The Republican Party has made a concerted effort to bring philosophical principles such as critical race theory to the heart of our politics, which is why Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has spent much of his time on the election campaign to complain about the beloved of Toni Morrison.. Parents took the bait, and overnight high school librarians – those cheeky extremists pushing their anti-American agendas by cataloging the 1987 Pulitzer winners – were in the crosshairs.

These books are rarely inflammatory or obscene; instead, they simply contain narratives about race, gender, and inequality that irritate prescribed American ideology. This is more than enough for an emboldened conservative movement.

But there is no evidence that the wave of book bans are actually fulfilling their ambition. If anything, they got the opposite effect. Beloved Sales increased after Youngkin turned Morrison into a partisan figure, and Jerry Craft, an author and artist who landed on the Krause List for his 2019 New Kid graphic novel, has discussed at length just how much of a godsend legislative removal is. unlikely for his career. “What happened is that so many places have sold so many copies because now people want to see what all the hubbub is,” he said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle. . “They are almost disappointed because there isn’t much they were looking for.”

Students keep copies of This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell. Photograph: Panthers Anti-Racist Union

In 2021, with countless different merchants all chained by an intercontinental supply chain, outlawing a novel is almost entirely ceremonial – more of a tantrum than a real political project. The Nazis burned thousands of books after taking over Berlin in 1933. Today, if a police officer comes looking to repossess your literature, a replacement copy can be delivered to your mailbox the next day. morning.

In fact, the booksellers I spoke to for this story all seemed eager to accept the government’s injunction as a spiritual challenge – almost as a test of their moral strength. Mark Haber, director of operations at Brazos Bookstore in Houston, tells me his staff have set up an exhibit featuring a selection of books evaporating from Texas school libraries. (Beloved and Michelle Zauner’s Crying in H-Mart are currently working very well). “The bans seem so organized. They don’t target any particular book, they target “books” in general. “

Brazos, of course, is part of the liberal Houston enclave. There is a self-selection bias in its sales figures and customer base, which Haber readily admits. “It’s definitely a political position,” he said. “We have customers who may have read the book before and just want to buy it back. “

In fact, Cymrot tells me he thinks the surge in sales of book bans is really a bipartisan phenomenon. He notices an increase regardless of which part is currently challenging the library. Earlier this year, when six of Dr Seuss’ books went out of circulation due to offensive caricatures in the pages, Riveryby flourished again. “Those paperbacks in our basement suddenly became collector’s items,” he says.

At the very least, let’s hope censorship campaigns encourage children to read more. I love the idea of ​​enterprising teens waving Krause’s agenda like a summer reading list, ticking off each headline, one by one, until they’ve firmly opened their third eye.

One of the most encouraging stories to emerge from the hysteria occurred in York County, Pa., Where local ordinances prohibited teachers from using a series of texts in their lesson plans last November. . (The taxonomy was bizarre. The biographies of Aretha Franklin, Malala Yousafzai, and Eleanor Roosevelt were put on ice.) High school students in the community rallied – organizing protests on campus, soliciting local newspapers and ultimately winning a policy reversal in September.

Today, the confluence of students and teachers who overturned the ban is known as the Panthers Anti-Racist Union, named after the Central York High School mascot. The group aims to continue its advocacy for social justice in the future, which may soon result in much bolder action than the mealy leanings of the local school board.

“We have always said that this organization aims to create a safe space where everyone can talk about who they are and their struggles. Not just in our school community, but in their lives, ”says Edha Gupta, a senior at Central York High School and a member of the Panthers Anti-Racist Union. “Any healthy way for people to truly express how they feel about these issues. We want a place where students feel empowered to speak up about what they are passionate about.

“I went through the list of prohibited books and found they sounded good. My mother had a ton, I got more from random people, ”explains Olivia Pituch, another union member. “Funny, the ban made me more curious to see what it was about.”


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