Kansas School District Reverses Decision To Ban 29 Books—Including ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’—After Outrage

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Update 11/15/21: The Goddard school district reversed the decision to pull the books out of circulation, issuing a letter addressing the controversy last Wednesday, November 10, 2021:

As schools in conservative areas once again get back onto their book banning bandwagon, as they do every decade or so, one Kansas district, in particular, is setting off irony alarms for banning, among 28 others, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

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Though mostly known for its depiction of a horrific patriarchal totalitarian state that turns women into baby incubators for the ruling class, part of the plot also involves heavy censorship, including book bans, that helps to lay the foundation for the rise of the dystopian Republic of Gilead.

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It’s about two steps away from banning Fahrenheit 451, a novel about a dystopian future in which all books are banned and named after the temperature at which books burn.

Books banned by the Goddard school district include a long list of entries that deal with the topic of race and racism as well as police brutality faced by people of color in the U.S. and abroad. According to a local report, “one parent” found some kind of language to be objectionable in The Hate U Give, a young adult novel about a Black girl who witnesses a white cop killing her friend and inspired by the 2009 police murder of Oscar Grant—and so it was tossed.

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Other items on the banned book list include Black Girl Unlimited, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and Trans Mission: My Quest to a Beard. The sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments, is also on the list, as well as The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.

The ban may not be permanent for all of the 29 books, but they have been removed from school libraries pending a “review” of their contents. It appears that it only takes a single complaint or “concern” from a conservative parent for a book to make it into this review process, and the outlook is grim for many of them considering recent trends across the red states to ban any discussion on racism because it might upset white kids. Queer topics, of course, continue to be automatically considered dirty.

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It also sounds like any future books on such topics will be “reviewed” before they enter the district libraries, judging by an email sent out by assistant superintendent for academic affairs Julie Cannizzo.

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“At this time, the district is not in a position to know if the books contained on this list meet our educational goals or not,” she wrote.. “Additionally, we need to gain a better understanding of the processes utilized to select books for our school libraries.”

She further announced that some kind of committee would be formed to “rate the content of the books,” which will take place at an unspecific future date that could very well be never.

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Goddard is following the example of many school districts in red states across the nation, some of which have gone straight past just banning books to literally suggesting they should be burned. The Spotsylvania County School Board in Virginia recently voted unanimously to ban books with “sexually explicit” content, which always ends up meaning anything involving queer and trans issues, with two board members promoting the burning of these pieces of literature.

“I think we should throw those books in a fire,” said Rabih Abuismail.

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Board member Kirk Twigg, meanwhile, said he would like to “see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff.”

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Over in Texas, state Rep. Matt Krause has announced an “inquiry” into a list of books that all seem to have a particular similarity in their authors. According to The Dallas Morning News, 97 of the first 100 books on this extensive list were written by women, people of color, or queer authors.

“This is all being done in the name of trying to do what? To protect kids?” said local author of Cinderella is Dead Kalynn Bayron. “To keep them from seeing certain topics discussed in books? But who is protecting kids against racism and homophobia and misogyny and misogynoir?”