Book bans continued this month with a brief effort by the Goddard school district, in Wichita, Kansas, to ban a list of books including well-known novels “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas and “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood.
The list, which was created and submitted by a concerned (probably white) parent, also includes “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, “Fences,” a play by Pulitzer Prize-winning author August Wilson, and informative books like “They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group,” which offers a historical glimpse into how the U.S. encouraged white supremacist organizing.
The complete list, in alphabetical order, included:
“#MurderTrending” by Gretchen McNeil; “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson; “Anger is a Gift” by Mark Oshiro; “Black Girl Unlimited” by Echo Brown; “Blended” by Sharon M. Draper; “Crank” by Ellen Hopkins; “Fences” by August Wilson; “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by Alison Bechdel; “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe; “Heavy” by Kiese Laymon; “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison; “Lily and Dunkin” by Donna Gephart; “Living Dead Girl” by Elizabeth Scott; “Monday’s Not Coming” by Tiffany D. Jackson; “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez; “Satanism” by Tamara L. Roleff; “The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives” by Dashka Slater; “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie; “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison; “The Girl Who Fell From the Sky” by Heidi W. Durrow; “The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel” adapted by Renee Nault; “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood; “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas; “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky; “The Testaments” by Margaret Atwood; “They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” by Susan Campbell Bertoletti; “This Book is Gay” by James Dawson; “This One Summer” by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki; and “Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard” by Alex Bertie.
The district agreed to resume allowing its libraries to check out the 29 books after the ban made national news, but attacks at censorship will most assuredly continue because book bans are part of a larger effort targeting Black and LGBTQ authors and books that make white people feel sensitive about history. Texas Republican Matt Krause made the motivation behind the effort clear after announcing his own investigation into school districts over books that make students feel “discomfort.”
Krause broadcast his beef with more than 800 books, most of which pertain to race or sexuality. He asked districts specifically to identify books that contain “sexually explicit images,” as well as books containing “material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex,” or books that somehow “convey that a student … is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” So, yeah, this is about white feelings.
“The fact that pornographic material that serves no educational purpose has been made available to students in Texas public schools is a clear violation of the law,” Abbott wrote in a Nov. 10 letter, and he ordered the Texas Education Agency to “investigate any criminal activity in our public schools involving the availability of pornography” and asked the agency to “refer any instance of pornography being provided to minors under the age of 18 for prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”
Abbott did not say in his letter how many librarians he’d prepared space for in Texas county jails.
Liegh McInnis, a retired Jackson State University English Professor and a Black author, called the bans a “misguided response to Critical Race Theory,” as well as a desperate move by white people to rally their disintegrating national majority.
“These are people who feel that their way of life is under attack, but their way of life has been white supremacy,” McInnis told The Lighthouse. “The election of Barack Obama was the first time that a majority of white men voted for something and didn’t get their way. That had never happened before, and that sent a resounding reverberation of fear and anger. And then, with the election of Joe Biden with the mobilization of people of color, they lost the one resource (they) really had, which was the majority.”
The underlying issue of white grievance may explain why the list of temporarily banned books in Kansas included “Black Girl Unlimited,” which explores issues of poverty, sexual violence, depression and racism and “Blended,” a book about an 11-year-old biracial child coming to terms with divorce. McInnis said the GOP has been using fake outrage to stir up their racist base since Newt Gingrich’s Moral Majority in the 1990s.