There seems to be a war against books in this county in school boards all over the nation. You would think that during a pandemic and a period of inflation, people would be concerned about other things. It’s ironic that the same people who don’t want to protect their children from Covid by making them wear a mask now want to protect kids from the ideas they might read in books.
Laura Murphy from Virginia was upset when her son was assigned Toni Morrison’s masterpiece Beloved in his Advanced Placement English class. She claimed that her son had nightmares while reading the book. Oddly though, Murphy’s complaint was the sexual themes in the book, not the treatment of slaves depicted in the novel. She complained that Beloved had ” the most explicit material you can imagine. ” She was lobbying that parents had a right to control what their children read.
I don’t know if Laura Murphy ever read the book. It’s about Sethe who kills her daughter Beloved to spare her from a life of slavery. Later, the spirit of Beloved haunts Sethe’s house in Ohio. It’s meant to be a disturbing book. It’s about the aftermath of slavery. I read it last year and I thought it was one of the most powerful books I read that year. Yes, there are sex themes, but it’s far from being a sexy book.
During the 2021 race for Governor of Virginia, Murphy was featured in an ad for Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin, asking for parental control over what books can be taught in schools. Youngkin won and I imagine he will be at the forefront of the culture war against books.
While Laura Murphy was stumping for parental Texas Republican State Legislator Matt Krause took a scorched Earth approach to books in schools. Youngkin sent a letter to The Texas Education Agency as well as school superintendents all across the state requesting if they had 850 books that he found objectionable because they “might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.” He gave schools a deadline of September 12 to respond.
I doubt that Krause ever read 850 books, especially those he objected to. I’m sure he asked his staff to Google books on the themes of race and sexuality. Among the books he wants to take off shelves are How Prevalent is Racism in Society by Peggy J. Parks, 11 books about Roe Vs Wade, The Cider House Rules by John Irving, and The Confession of Nat Turner by William Styron. He also objects to many books with LGBT themes in them.
What is scary to me, as a gay man, is that queer youth are being denied books where they can see themselves reflected back. When I was a teenager, there weren’t many books about gay people that I could find. I wonder if queer authors like James Baldwin, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, and Tennessee Williams will no longer be found in school libraries. Does this limit access to books on gay figures like Harvey Milk or Bayard Rustin? Would students be stopped from writing a book report on LGBT history or the AIDS crisis? There are rumors that Krause wants to run for Texas Attorney General and this stunt or witch hunt is his way of becoming better known.
Not to be outdone by Krause are two members of the Spotsylvania County School Board in Virginia. The school board was debating whether or not to take the book 33 Snowfish by Adam Rapp of library shelves. That was not enough for representatives Rabih Abusismail and Kirk Twigg. They suggested that the book was so vile that they should be burned.
I’m not sure how much World history either board member knows but book burnings were a commonplace occurrence in Nazi Germany. It was another tool for them to control people. Some of the books burned were written by Jews like Albert Einstein or Sigmund Freud. Other books burned were those that were critical of Nazis. Is this the direction we want to move in our country?
I think this is a critical time in this country. Are we going to allow book banning and even book burning in the US? Or will we fight for children’s right to stay informed and read books that will excite and inform them on a multitude of subjects? The war on books will be lost if we don’t do anything. The future depends on it.