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Censorship in Illinois libraries highlighted during banned books week

Thursday, Sep 22, 2022 - Posted by Isabel Miller

* WBEZ

A northwest suburban school district Tuesday night voted narrowly to reject a bid to remove two books in the district’s high school library.

In a 4-to-3 vote, the board kept Flamer, a semi-autobiographical graphic novel about a Filipino-American teen struggling with his gay identity. They also retained This Book Is Gay, a non-fiction book about gender and sexuality. The board accepted a recommendation by a school advisory committee of experts to keep the books after determining they didn’t meet the standards for obscenity and pornograpy.

“It’s our job to represent the more than 8,000 students in our district,” said Board member Erin Chan Ding. “What are we saying if we pull a book like this that has already been vetted, that has already been selected to be available — not taught, not explicitly shown — but available to students who want to read it?”

But during a lengthy and sometimes heated debate, board members were split over whether the books were appropriate content in school. At one point, someone in the audience called a board member who supported keeping the books a “pedophile.” The board members discussed the current options for parents to restrict their children from checking out certain books, but some were concerned they didn’t go far enough.

* Public News Service

This week marks the American Library Association’s annual Banned Books Week, and this year’s theme is “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.” The association has conducted polling on the issue which showed 71% of Americans oppose efforts to remove books from public libraries, and 67% oppose efforts to remove books from school libraries.

Kristin Pekoll, conference and continuing-education manager for the Illinois Library Association, said she has been surprised by some of the challenges.

“The challenges that are coming into our younger nonfiction picture-books materials, like about Rosa Parks, young biographies of Martin Luther King,” Pekoll recounted. “We’re seeing biographies about Michelle Obama being challenged. Yeah, those always surprise me.” […]

The [American Library] Association estimates between 82% and 97% of book challenges go unreported.

* Patch

In Illinois, the books and the school districts that banned them are:

    “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe: Community High School District 117, Lake Villa
    “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobae: Harlem School District 122, Machesney Park
    “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas: ROWVA Community United School District 228, Oneida

In Lake Forest, school officials decided to keep the book “Gender Queer: A Memoir” in the high school’s library following an extensive review process by the school’s standing advisory Book Review Committee. […]

PEN America identified 50 groups, many that formed in the last year, that have led the charge to ban books at the national, state, and local levels. They include local groups on Facebook and other social media to established conservative groups, including Moms for Liberty, which started in Florida, the No. 2 state for book bans, and now has 200 chapters.

Moms for Liberty, which has Illinois chapters in Lake County, Cook County, DuPage County, and Henry County, is “linked directly” to 20 percent of the book bans enacted in the last school year, the report said.

* The Atlantic

At a packed school-board meeting near Rockford, Illinois, earlier this year, a woman waved blown-up images from Maia Kobabe’s illustrated memoir Gender Queer in front of the Harlem School District board. “If my neighbor were to give this to my child, guess what? He would be in jail,” she said to scattered applause. She was among dozens of students, parents, and community members who’d shown up to weigh in on whether the district should ban eight titles, including Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. “I do not take the banning of books lightly … but frankly, these particular books contain child-sexual-abuse material,” said one of the participants, echoing others who claimed that Gender Queer, which is about being nonbinary and asexual, amounted to “child abuse.”

Even though the room was evenly split, the board ultimately voted to ban Gender Queer and keep the other seven, adding even more notoriety to the most-challenged book of 2021. Gender Queer has become a national lightning rod for book banning in schools and libraries, which has reached the highest recorded level since 1990 when the American Library Association began tracking challenges. In 2021, the number of attempts to remove books jumped from 156 the previous year to 729; it’s on track to be even greater this year.

What is the fate of a book like Kobabe’s after it is debated and banned? It might seem, on the face of it, desirable: One children’s-book author on tour in Virginia told me that she hoped her book would be censored, citing widely reported accounts that bans drive sales. Many people share this assumption. Stories in the media have gleefully trotted out examples of how censorship efforts backfire and lead instead to enormous demand. It’s a narrative that mitigates fears about an American culture grown hostile to provocative books. It makes us feel a little better.

* NYT

Attempts to ban books are accelerating across the country at a rate never seen since tracking began more than 20 years ago, according to a new report from the American Library Association.

So far in 2022, there have been attempts to ban or restrict access to 1,651 different titles, the group found, up from challenges to 1,597 books in 2021, the year with the highest number of complaints since the group began documenting book challenges decades ago.

Book banning efforts have grown rapidly in number and become much more organized, divisive and vitriolic over the past two years, splitting communities, causing bitter rifts on school and library boards, and spreading across the country through social media and political campaigns.

Public libraries have been threatened by politicians and community members with a loss of funding for their refusal to remove books. Members of the Proud Boys, an extremist right-wing group, showed up at a school board meeting in Illinois, where book access was on the agenda, and at a drag queen story hour in California. Librarians have been accused of promoting pedophilia. In its recent analysis, the library association cited 27 instances of police reports being filed against library staff over the content of their shelves.

…Adding… From Secretary White’s office…

Illinois Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White strongly opposes any effort to ban books. Such an effort prevents the public from freely accessing reading materials of their choice, which goes against the ideals of a free and democratic nation.

       

36 Comments »
  1. - Just Me 2 - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 12:35 pm:

    I can’t believe we’re actually talking about banning books. Let’s just have a massive bon-fire while we’re at it.

    Spoiler alert - gay people exist.


  2. - South side cubs fan - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 12:37 pm:

    Do these folks want to burn the books too, once they’re removed from the shelves?


  3. - ArchPundit - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 12:39 pm:

    If someone calls you a pedophile in public, sue them. It’s the only way this is going to stop.

    ===“The challenges that are coming into our younger nonfiction picture-books materials, like about Rosa Parks, young biographies of Martin Luther King,” Pekoll recounted. “We’re seeing biographies about Michelle Obama being challenged. Yeah, those always surprise me.” […]

    It shouldn’t be surprising as there is a definite theme there.


  4. - Jocko - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 12:46 pm:

    ==but frankly, these particular books contain child-sexual-abuse material==

    Want to bet this participant hasn’t read the book…much less ANY book…in the past year?


  5. - Almost the Weekend - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 12:46 pm:

    Well whatever side you are on. Controversy reigns in more clicks or more book sales in this case. It’s a shame what this has to come. Whether it is Proft or hoping your book gets banned. Social media is destroying this country from the inside out.


  6. - Steve - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 12:46 pm:

    All libraries have budgets. There’s always a scarcity of resources. Every community can decide for themselves what kind of books they want. When you are in the minority of what the majority wants: there’s always inner library loan.


  7. - Oak Brook Boy - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 12:51 pm:

    ==All libraries have budgets. There’s always a scarcity of resources.==

    Steve, this is a strawman argument; this has nothing to do with money. These libraries HAD these books but then took them off the shelf because of public backlash.


  8. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 12:51 pm:

    ===There’s always a scarcity of resources. Every community can decide for themselves what kind of books they want.===

    - Steve -

    You’re on a roll today.

    You favor banning books as a … budgetary casualty?

    ===Public libraries have been threatened by politicians and community members with a loss of funding for their refusal to remove books. Members of the Proud Boys, an extremist right-wing group, showed up at a school board meeting in Illinois, where book access was on the agenda===

    You stand with the Proud Boys thinking on this… “because budgets”?

    I recall your take on immigration too wasn’t that… welcoming.

    So… thanks for continuing to tell who you are


  9. - ArchPundit - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 12:55 pm:

    From WBEZ: The PEN report also itemized the subject matter banned most frequently. Some 41% of the banned titles last year focused on LGBTQ themes; some 40% had protagonists or prominent secondary characters of color.

    Funny how scarcity plays out.


  10. - ArchPundit - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 12:58 pm:

    School boards set policy, not make operational decisions. These debates shouldn’t be about individual books, but about district policy regarding acceptable books for the school libraries.

    Of course, that gets tough because someone will say no nudity and all of a sudden art history books are banned.


  11. - Steve Polite - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 1:00 pm:

    “Moms for Liberty”

    Their name defies their actions.

    Liberty: freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice. - Dictionary.com


  12. - TheInvisibleMan - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 1:09 pm:

    I like to spread this on every story about banning books…

    “The Brooklyn Public Library is offering free digital library cards to students across the country through a simple QR code.

    The reason for the free digital cards? To provide access to just some of the over 2,000 books banned in schools around the country.”

    Books Unbanned - Brooklyn Public Library

    Banning books in the 21st century to keep people from reading them is the equivalent of giving a laxative to a horse to try to disrupt public transportation.

    It’s not 1800 anymore, in either case.


  13. - train111 - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 1:15 pm:

    Is it just me or does anybody else really question the wisdom of banning a book in a high school library where 99% of the student body can look up the controversial material in a matter of 30 seconds on their cellphones?
    Seriously, the controversy will probably have more students looking up the material than would have seen it if nothing were said.
    That’s why in my cynical opinion book bans are nothing more than a lame attempt at scoring easy political points.
    Train111


  14. - OneMan - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 1:15 pm:

    As someone who spent a lot of time in his High School library back when he was in High School, unless things have radically changed, the kids in the library are the last ones you need to worry about being negatively impacted by what is in the library.


  15. - ArchPundit - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 1:29 pm:

    ===e kids in the library are the last ones you need to worry about being negatively impacted by what is in the library.

    Wait, students are reading?…we must put a stop to that ;) Getting the kids to read is generally the hardest part.


  16. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 1:42 pm:

    Has Bailey found the CRT yet?


  17. - The Professor - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 1:54 pm:

    For all - I recommend reading “Free Speech: A History From Socrates to Social Media” The book came out in 2022 and provides an excellent relation from where we came. The question now is “where are we going?”


  18. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 2:00 pm:

    ===Why are there no Bibles in libraries?===

    Really, what libraries have you looked?


  19. - Politix - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 2:04 pm:

    ==Hate and bigotry is destroying this country from the inside out.==

    Fixed it for ya


  20. - Ares - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 2:21 pm:

    Scary part is that the right-wing fringe are starting to turn on library board members outside their home areas. Witness what happened with Orland Park (and Congress wannabe) mayor Pekau (who, btw, is regularly featured on page 3 of the Profft/Uihlein propaganda). Be assured, these will be stood up to.


  21. - Roadrager - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 2:23 pm:

    ==If someone calls you a pedophile in public, sue them. It’s the only way this is going to stop.==

    Yeah, but then the guy you sue claims it’s merely a common turn of phrase in his native South Africa, and somehow, that defense holds up in court.


  22. - ArchPundit - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 2:26 pm:

    ====Really, what libraries have you looked?

    Ebook, audiobook, large print, regular book I can find in any modern library so he didn’t look much. Also, which version…


  23. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 2:31 pm:

    ===didn’t look much===

    My point. Yep.


  24. - Cool Papa Bell - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 2:32 pm:

    Just wait until those people find out that libraries have the internet.

    So lending of violent rated R movies are fine, explicit lyric music is ok, but books telling us about a person being gay or trans is too far.

    Got it.


  25. - Amalia - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 2:43 pm:

    you don’t like these books? don’t read them. you want other kinds of books? write them.


  26. - MisterJayEm - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 2:44 pm:

    “When you are in the minority of what the majority wants…”

    These bans aren’t in response to majority opinion, they are in response to a vocal (and sometimes violent) minority.

    But you already knew that.

    – MrJM


  27. - Salukis FTW - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 2:55 pm:

    They’re totally Streisand Effect-ing these books. Think kids in school want to read their assigned texts? Most don’t. But this is gonna make them think, “hmm, maybe I should…”


  28. - U of I MLS - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 3:03 pm:

    “there’s always inner library loan”

    Nice try Steve, but it is interlibrary loan, as in “between libraries”. Don’t quit your day job, you’re not quite ready to be a library director.


  29. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 3:39 pm:

    Don’t like these books? Don’t read them.

    Don’t want your kids to read them? OK, you get a say until they reach majority, then stuff it.

    Don’t want other people (including other people’s kids) to read them? That’s none of your business.

    But backhanded thanks are in order, because some people who might want to read them may not even know these books exist except for your loud complaining pointing them out.


  30. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 3:59 pm:

    -the kids in the library are the last ones you need to worry about being negatively impacted by what is in the library.-

    Based on a relative’s experience working in a high school, the parents who complain the loudest are often the parents of the kids who are the biggest screw-ups who get no support at home. They pick and choose what their involvement is, and it usually involves yelling at staff.


  31. - Oswego Willy - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 4:08 pm:

    ===the parents who complain the loudest are often the parents of the kids who are the biggest screw-ups who get no support at home.===

    Huh.

    I can think of parents who are trying to relive their own high school experiences being too involved.

    I can think of parents fighting back against… book banning, club ending, or sport cutting.

    I can think of parents complaining loudly about busing inequities.

    These “parents” or out of towners like the Proud Boys … that’s usually whom parents are fighting against changing the schools

    The politics within school board members, or local politics where school boards are the first rung in the ladder…

    … these folks wanting to ban books are outliers by most measures, including losing school bias elections as we saw with the pandemic.

    With respect


  32. - Sir Reel - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 4:10 pm:

    Proverbial mountain out of a molehill. I suspect most kids spend a fraction of their time time in their school library compared to the time they spend online where they can access all kinds of stuff.


  33. - cover - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 4:21 pm:

    ==but frankly, these particular books contain child-sexual-abuse material==

    ==Why are there no Bibles in libraries?==

    Maybe the answer to the second point is contained in the first point - no snark.


  34. - Huh? - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 4:25 pm:

    My grandmother was a retired librarian. She founded the town library in in the early 1930’s. This nonsense about banning books would have driven her crazy. She would have become a fire breathing maniac at the thought of banning a book.


  35. - The Ford Lawyer - Thursday, Sep 22, 22 @ 5:48 pm:

    “Moms for Liberty …is “linked directly” to 20 percent of the book bans…”

    Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think that it means.”


  36. - Techie - Friday, Sep 23, 22 @ 9:02 am:

    @train111

    “Is it just me or does anybody else really question the wisdom of banning a book in a high school library where 99% of the student body can look up the controversial material in a matter of 30 seconds on their cellphones?
    Seriously, the controversy will probably have more students looking up the material than would have seen it if nothing were said.”

    Bingo.

    Whatever “offensive” content might be in any of the books under consideration pales in comparison to what can be easily found online.

    “…a woman waved blown-up images from Maia Kobabe’s illustrated memoir Gender Queer in front of the Harlem School District board”

    Images of what, the naked human body? Of intercourse? I would bet that there are all kinds of descriptions and depictions of violence in other books at the library, but yeah, bodies and sex must be censored at all costs. We can’t have our youth learn about sexuality, especially if it’s queer. /s


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