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.
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.
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.