Utah school district removes more than 50 books from public school libraries, thanks to new law

Utah school district removes more than 50 books from public school libraries, thanks to new law

As Daily Kos has continued to cover, Republicans are going after books. Attempts to ban books are so outrageous, that they sound like satire, but they’re sadly extremely real, and so are the ramifications of young people (and adults) losing access to stories by and about marginalized people. As covered by the Salt Lake Tribune, more than fifty books by several dozen authors are set to be removed from public school libraries in the biggest school district in Utah. The texts were part of a review done for “sensitive material” that lacks “literary” merit.

Some of these books include Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult, Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, Forever by Judy Bloom, and George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue. Really, these texts don’t lack literary merit, though they do contain serious themes—Nineteen Minutes, for example, is about a school shooting. But these books are important, award-winning works that clearly resonate with readers; Rupi Kaur’s poetry book, Milk and Honey, for example, is so ubiquitous it can be found in apparel store Urban Outfitters.

The real issue with these books is they highlight marginalized voices (more than 40% include LGBTQ+ characters) or that they reflect the real-life horrors young people are facing, like gun violence. So, of course, Republicans are trying to strip readers of access to empathy, compassion, and critical thinking on these subjects.

RELATED: Wisconsin school district bans teachers from wearing rainbow attire and displaying Pride flags

In terms of specific numbers, the Alpine School District reviewed 275 books in total. Parents were able to suggest books from school libraries for said review. In the end, the board removed 52 books and set aside 32 more to be evaluated more closely come fall.

NEW: 52 books by 41 authors are being removed from the libraries of Utah’s largest school district, after an internal library audit determined that they contain “sensitive material” under a new law, and “do not have literary merit.” 1/ https://t.co/j17YBq5gFL pic.twitter.com/QMkAW0Jjvh

— PEN America (@PENamerica) August 1, 2022

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“We’ve not had a book burning or anything,” David Stephenson, who serves as a spokesperson for the district, stated, adding that they’re being “proactive” about books they’ve heard “concerns” about.

Lovely. 

The Alpine School District is the biggest school district in the state. But it’s certainly not alone. This past spring, lawmakers in Utah passed a dangerous new law, HB 374, titled “Sensitive Materials in Schools,” which, in part, allows for books in public schools from K-12 to be “immediately removed” if they meet definitions of pornography under the law. As you can imagine, conservatives are quick to find anything remotely queer, or anything about sexual abuse, to be “pornography,” and content about cisgender and heterosexual people to be the norm.

It’s scary to think about efforts to ban books in conjunction with other anti-queer movements; take, for example, the Don’t Say Gay bills popping up across the nation, as well as efforts to demonize and isolate vulnerable trans youth by barring them from participating in sports and even using the restroom. Critical race theory hysteria is another manifestation of this anti-intellectual and divisive rhetoric. With midterms coming up, Republicans are pulling out all the stops to get their voter base angry at anyone unlike them.

If literal lives didn’t hang in the balance, their transparency would be laughable.

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