Libraries in Jeopardy, More Book Bans and Strong Pushback

From book bans to libraries in jeopardy to celebrity campaigns, Bookstr News has you covered this episode. Read on to see what’s going on in the bookish world.

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Bookstr News is back with all the latest news from the book world. In case you’re unfamiliar with Bookstr News, this is where we roundup the most important stories in one place, keeping you up to speed with everything you need to know. This week, we’re bringing you an interesting mix of news from across the country, so let’s dive right in! 

Texas County Library to Remain Open Amid Book Ban Controversy

Llano County Public Library has been the center of attention lately following a book ban controversy and conversations to shut it down entirely. Thankfully, the library will remain open, much to the joy of Llano County residents who were anxiously awaiting the court’s decision

Two weeks ago, a federal judge ordered county officials to return the library books that had unconstitutionally been removed. The books that had been removed surrounded themes of race, identity, and the LGBTQ+ experience, with county officials calling the material “pornographic” and “sexually explicit.” 

People opposing book bans
Image via Sergio Flores / The Texas Tribune

The conversation surrounding Llano County Public Library started a year ago in April 2022 when seven library patrons sued the county judge, commissioner’s court, and library board members for infringing on their First Amendment rights by removing certain books based on their content. 

While the library’s fate faces a positive outcome, residents expressed hesitation over the way things will remain. 

“I think we better be really damn vigilant or we’ll be back here in a couple of months,” resident Denise Kennedy said.

Anne Frank Illustrated Book Removed from Florida School Library

Moving over to Florida, Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation has been removed from Vero Beach High School following objections from a group called “Moms for Liberty in Indian River County.” 

According to one mother, the graphic novel violated state standards to teach the Holocaust accurately. Following the objection, the school’s principal removed the book after agreeing with the objection. 

Part of the book shows the protagonist walking in a park observing nude female statues and suggesting to a friend that they show each other their breasts. 

Anne Frank graphic book
Image via Amazon

The book was published in 2018 by Ari Folman, whose parents are Holocaust survivors. The book was adapted from Anne Frank’s diary, in which she chronicled her time hiding with her family from the Nazis. Her book, published in 1947 after she died in a concentration camp, is widely read by millions across the world.  

Moms for Liberty also objected to three other books being in the school’s library, all three of which were removed. 

Celebrities at Forefront of ‘Let America Read’ Campaign

The book ban endemic sweeping the U.S. seems to be spreading to more cities and states every week, with legislators ruling to remove certain “explicit” books from library shelves. The latest group to join the fight against book bans are celebrities, calling the fight “an act of patriotism and a show of strength.”

The Creative Arts Agency (CAA) Foundation and Campaign for Our Shared Future partnered with celebrities like Julia Roberts, Julianna Margulies, and Selma Blair to launch the Let America Read campaign. The aim is to create awareness about book bans and fight against them through advocacy. 

The campaign’s website is asking people to select a book from PEN America’s banned book list and post a video to social media sharing why the book is meaningful to them. 

According to the American Library Association (ALA), book bans in the U.S. have been at an all-time high. In 2022 alone 2,571 books were targeted, among them Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale

Children’s Book Illustrator Arrested for Threats Against Transgender Children

TW: The following content references transphobia and threats of gun violence. Please exert caution as you proceed. 

Children’s book illustrator Mitchell Thomas Watley was arrested by police earlier this month for leaving transphobic leaflets in various locations across his hometown Juneau, Alaska. His books have been removed by booksellers in Juneau and his publisher, Sasquatch Books, owned by Penguin Random House, has ended their partnership with Watley and discontinued selling his books. 

The leaflets included an assault rifle superimposed over the transgender flag with text reading “Feeling Cute Might Shoot Some Children.” The first note was found in a grocery store on March 31, which is Trans Day of Visibility, followed by leaflets being found at the Alaska State Office Building and at a Costco. The police traced surveillance footage back to a vehicle registered in Watley’s name, after which they arrested him. Watley faced a preliminary hearing on April 11. 

Watley is the illustrator of three children’s books written by his wife, Sarah Asper-Smith. The books she’s written with Watley as an illustrator have been removed from bookstores in Juneau, but she does not face any charges. 

The leaflets were found just days after a shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville. Authorities initially identified the shooter as a woman but later clarified that the shooter used he/him pronouns. 

Transgender rights have lately been under attack by state legislators severely restricting access to gender-affirming treatment, among other harmful restrictions. 

This brings us to the end of this week’s episode on an alarming albeit important note to spread awareness of the rise in book bans, attacks on freedom of speech, and an increase in transphobic violence across the country. While the influx of negative news can be overwhelming, there are resources to fight the good fight and take care of yourself in the process of doing so. 

And with this, we’ve concluded Season 1 of Bookstr News! We’ll be back next week with a new season packed with more news to keep you up to speed. In case you missed last week’s episode, you can watch it here: