Dear Eleven Adults Responsible for the Majority of Book Bans in Schools,
I’m sorry for that cold salutation. I don’t know all your names yet. But shout out to you, Jennifer Petersen. The Washington Post reported that you’re one of the eleven, working from Spotsylvania, which I imagined as a dark and misty town where dogs became vampires. My imagination got the best of me—I just love speculative fiction. Turns out, it’s a real place in Virginia.
If I’m being honest, I’ve been feeling more than a little overwhelmed with the state of our country lately. It feels like every day, something happens that makes me wonder whether I’ve stumbled right into the fifth dimension from A Wrinkle in Time and lost a couple of decades. I’m guessing you all know that book, since some of your schools have banned it.
What an unexpected pleasure it was to feel an actual jolt of joy when I read that the entire movement to ban books in US public schools is coming from fewer people than I fed this Thanksgiving. Thank god (do you have an issue with me saying “god”? Or “God”? I’m guessing no) it’s just eleven of you.
Here’s why I’m writing, and it’s not really about reading—it’s actually about math. I need to understand the formula you use to accomplish your work, so I’m hoping you might be willing to join me for a brief Zoom meeting.
Before you refuse, let me say, I know you’re busy. I read that some of you contested almost a hundred books in a single year in your local school district. I’m sure everyone in your hometowns knows your names. But—wow—that means you were reading TWO books a week, and doing everything else needed to get those books out of school libraries and away from the eyes of impressionable students. I imagine this involves so much more than just reading, like writing letters and attending meetings, all of which must be very, very time-consuming.
And I bet your work must be taking a toll in ways you’re probably not comfortable talking to me about, because we haven’t even met. I’m guessing, for example, that reading all the sexually explicit content to protect innocent children from becoming oversexualized might also be having the same effect on you as a reader? Or, perhaps, you’re finding yourself questioning your own sexuality? Thinking a little more deeply about your own pronouns?
Maybe you’re even starting to see systemic racism in the very fabric of our society. It’s those books! And now you can’t unsee it. Words on paper can be pretty powerful.
Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be a debate about the books you’ve removed. I mean, that’s the beauty of books, right? You are allowed to form your own opinions about them.
But I’m really writing because I believe I have something to learn from you. I mean, you are ELEVEN human beings who have convinced people all over America to take books off the shelves in our schools. I did a little digging myself and found that there were almost three thousand different books targeted for censorship in 2022. That’s three times as many as 2021! You guys are like David (of David and Goliath, from the Bible—are you okay with me talking about this story?).
No matter what I believe about banning books, I recognize that eleven of you have had a disproportionate impact on the practice of banning books in public schools. I think one conversation, even on a Zoom screen, would serve as a master class for me to understand the banning formula that you use. And then I could ask a few friends from my book group to work with me to ban other things things I believe would have a disproportionate impact on students.
We would start with some low-stakes ideas that really impact me, like banning bras with underwires, and those endless Facebook ads promising to reduce my menopausal belly. Once we’ve had some success, we would turn our attention to banning things that really impact students, like active shooter drills on the first day of school and assault weapons. I have a whole list of ideas.
Thanks for considering,
Melanie Winklosky, Founder
BANding Together (I just made that up, do you like it?)