“Any Book Worth Banning is a Book Worth Reading.” — Isaac Asimov

“Those who seek to ban books are never on the right side of history. Never.” — Jon Rosenthal

“Any Book Worth Banning is a Book Worth Reading.” — Isaac Asimov

Recently, Steve Martin discovered that his 20-year-old novel Shopgirl was banned from school libraries in Collier County Florida as a result of a new State law that’s part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” agenda. Under the new law, it takes only one complaint to restrict or otherwise ban a book from being available in a public school in Florida. But in an example of the Law of Unintended Consequence, sales of Shopgirl increased after the ban, giving me some hope that a Florida parent may one day object to my two books.

Steve Martin isn’t alone. Because teachers and school librarians can be fired for failure to comply with the law, almost 300 books were pulled from school libraries as soon as the law came into force. Other books were restricted to certain grade levels or required parental permission to read, notwithstanding the ease by which children can access sexualized content simply by looking at Instagram videos on their parent’s iPhones. Other banned books include The Handmaid’s Tale, Brave New World, The Colour Purple, and To Kill a Mockingbird. Despite all the murder, incest, violence and sexuality in the Bible, I do not see it on the banned or restricted list.

To illustrate how malicious this law is, a book by American youth poet laureate Amanda Gorman containing her spellbinding poem “The Hill We Climb” was a victim. Delivered at President Joe Biden’s inauguration in 2021, Gorman’s book was restricted to middle and high school students after one parent complained that her poems “indoctrinated children” and contained “indirect hate messages.” Not only had this parent not read the book, but she had also posted anti-Semitic content online, attended a white supremacist event, as well as a rally attended by the far-right advocacy group “Moms for Liberty,” (sometimes called “Klanned Karenhood”), which group had strongly advocated for the “Don’t Say Gay” and “Book Banning” laws. Proving that karma loves hypocrites the most, the group’s founder is currently embroiled in a sex scandal after admitting to a three-way sexual tryst that included another woman. But I digress.

What makes this law so devious is that it counts on hyper-politicized and ideologically motivated parents and other frenzied foot soldiers in the culture wars to demand that certain books be banned in schools, rather than have the State do the banning. It’s analogous to the East German government counting on its citizens to turn their fellow citizens in to the Stasi. It only takes one parent to demand the removal of a book, and the school must remove it within five days unless the objection is overcome. But the schools often give in to the extremists because they lack the resources to fight a myriad of objections. This way, Florida legislators can say “it’s not the State that’s banning these books. It’s the parents.

Since the enactment of this law, 600 of the 700 requests to ban books came from just two people. The grounds for banning were sexual content and LGBTQ content or the books dealt with slavery, racial discrimination, critical race theory, science or that dastardly of all sins: the dreaded woke agenda! But Florida isn’t alone. An investigation by the Washington Post revealed that only 11 people comprised 60% of all book-banning requests in the US in 2022.

Golden Compass author Philip Pullman alluded to the fact that once you ban a book, everyone wants to read it: “The best way to get kids to read a book is to say, ‘this book is not appropriate for your age, and it has all sorts of horrible things in it like sex and death and some big and complicated ideas and you’re better off not touching it until you’re all grown up.’

I look at this far more cynically. History has shown us that a society that bans books today will burn them tomorrow. And we all know what happens after that.

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