Public Schools

A Minnesota county makes it clear: No book bans here!

  Rob Boston

The wave of Christian Nationalist-inspired book bans that’s sweeping the country is discouraging, to say the least. We’ve seen classic works of literature, books that feature people of color, religious minorities and LGBTQ+ characters, and other titles pulled from public schools and public libraries. At times, it seems as if the barbarians really are at the gates – and they’re hoisting a torch they plan to use to destroy any book they don’t like.

But amid the bad news, let’s not forget the power communities hold. When people unite to oppose book banners, amazing things can happen.

Carver County resident wanted to ban book Gender Queer

Consider a recent incident from Carver County, Minn. Erin Busse, a resident, demanded the removal of Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe, which, according to the American Library Association, holds the dubious distinction of being the most censored book in America.

Last month, Busse outlined her objections to the book during a meeting of the Carver County Library Board, remarking, “This book is shameful and harmful, and to put it and allow it to be in the hands of children is sexual grooming.” (Who wants to bet she hasn’t even read it?)

When other residents got wind of what was going on, they packed the board’s meeting Tuesday night and made it clear they won’t accept censorship. CBS News noted that the result “was a collective call from the community to keep a book on the shelves.”

Speakers made great points. County resident Ellen Bean observed, “Book banning has never ended up on the right side of history.” Another speaker said they read the book and learned things from it.

My favorite was the unnamed resident who said, “If you don’t like it, don’t read it. If it makes you uncomfortable, maybe you should examine why that is.”

Public libraries serve everyone

Bingo. Public libraries are public for a reason – they serve everyone. When you visit your local branch, you’ll see plenty of books that you’re not interested in, including titles that clash sharply with your worldview. You have the option of not checking those books out.

Nor is this a matter of “protecting children.” In Carver County, Gender Queer is in the section labeled for adults. But even if it were available to all ages, parents would still have the power to steer their children away from it and toward books they consider more appropriate.

At the end of the meeting, the Carver County Library Board voted unanimously to keep Gender Queer on the shelves. They were met with a standing ovation.

This is a scene we need to see in communities all over America – and we can, if we simply take the time to speak up.

P.S. During Banned Books Week last year, AU’s Kalli Joslin blogged about the positive impact of books like Gender Queer. You can read about that here.

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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