Thank You Alan!

NOTE: Generally, I make the biggest political story of the week just passed the subject of my Sunday article. I deviated this week because Sunday gets the most readership and I feel extremely strongly about book banning.

In 2011 I posted an almost real time angry reaction to an event. I learned my lesson. Since then, when angry, I have always waited a bit. On June 14th the Washington Post’s online edition had a story entitled, “A Florida school district banned a book about banned books.” Today is my angry response to the school board’s action.

The book in question is Ban This Book, by Alan Gratz. The group that advocated banning this book (and 245 others to date in this school district) is Moms for Liberty which, especially in Florida, has recently been under a cloud of scandal. I spent one of the most enjoyable decades of my life in Florida. Fortunately, not one during which I was educated. In my opinion, and I’m far from alone, Florida and quality education do not belong in the same paragraph. That should be the concern, not Mr. Gratz or his works. I really like Florida but its education system is far from the best. If Florida moms were truly concerned about the state of education in their state that, not banning books that teach, would be their area of concentration.

I didn’t want to respond from a position of ignorance. As my regular readers know I spent a good part of June on the road. I also had not read this particular book prior to the Washington Post’s article. I finally read it this week. Now from a position of knowledge I can unequivocally state that there is no legitimate reason to ban this book! That said allow me to outline some of the reasons the right wing may have issues with it.

One of the pillars of the contemporary GOP – which gives the extreme right in America its veneer of credibility – is the promotion of ignorance. Public education, especially the goal of turning out young adults with the ability to do critical thinking, is a huge threat to them.

The protagonist in this novel is a very smart nine-year-old Black girl. This is in direct conflict with right wing mythology which is steeped in white supremacy. She is from an intact nuclear family where both parents have legal jobs. Again, in conflict with right wing mythology. She and a few of her multi-ethnic circle of friends outsmart the “middle class” white mom who, while illustrating that at her core she is a good and generally well-intentioned person, Gratz, via his protagonist, unveils as a hypocrite.

Book banning only promotes inequity. My grandchildren, (one of whom, currently in grad school, actually introduced me to Gratz years ago) will not be affected by book bans. If a book is banned in their school I have and will continue to buy it for them. Not every child comes from a family with the financial resources that mine has. In fact, when Alan comes out with a new book I generally pre-order three copies.

On my book shelf right now are his works: Allies, Code of Honor, Grenade, Heroes, Prisoner B-3087, Projekt 1065 and Two Degrees. I’ve already given away to the grandchildren some of his other works. Gratz is a YA (Young Adults) author. (Being in my 70’s, I may be his oldest regular reader.) He is a former teacher whose books do the magic of teaching while telling a story. The beauty of his work is that the children learn without realizing they are learning. Rather than ban his books we should consider him a national treasure.

My suggestion is that book banners read this book; they just might learn something(s).

Perhaps the most striking thing about this book is its dedication: “To librarians everywhere.” As is often the case Alan said it better than I could and we all owe them thanks!

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