In Texas, a state legislator wants to “investigate” hundreds of books in school libraries. In Kansas, a school district is pulling dozens of books off the shelves of libraries and forming a committee to decide “if the books contained on this list meet our educational goals or not.” In Spotsylvania County, Virginia, two school board members are talking outright about burning books.
The Spotsylvania County School Board voted unanimously this week to remove “sexually explicit” material from school libraries, and to consider what else might be “objectionable” in school library collections. But two members of the board went above and beyond.
”I think we should throw those books in a fire,” said board member Rabih Abuismail. Kirk Twigg wants to “see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff.”
What books? Apparently whatever is determined to be sexually explicit. According to Abuismail, the presence of 33 Snowfish in the Riverbend High Schools’ digital app (which would, if nothing else, make it difficult to burn), means that the schools “would rather have our kids reading gay pornography than about Christ.”
The issue was first raised by a parent who said that she was initially alarmed at LGBTQIA material available to students, and on further investigation found a book she liked even less. That book is Adam Rapp’s 33 Snowfish, and I’m not going to lie, it sounds dark. It was also one of the Young Adult Library Services Association's top 10 books for young adults in 2004.
While this parent and these board members are definitely targeting LGBTQ content in particular, that’s not all that’s at risk when the book-burning, or the book-removal-from-libraries, starts. Remember that Glenn Youngkin’s winning gubernatorial campaign in the very same state of Virginia ran an ad taking aim at former Gov. Terry McAuliffe for vetoing a bill that would have allowed parents to reject “sexually explicit” reading assignments—and the book in question was Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Beloved, generally considered to be one of the great U.S. novels of the 20th century.
The media consistently downplayed Youngkin’s appeals to racism—it’s no accident that the book in that ad was by a Black author—and now, just over a week after he prevailed, we’ve got members of a Virginia school board advocating for book-burning and the rest of the board going ahead with an extreme attack on the reading material available to high school students. LGBTQ books and books by authors of color is what’s disproportionately going to be removed from schools by this board, and in Kansas, and in Texas, and in who knows how many more states before the current Republican orgy of bigotry and censorship abates.