Friday, April 21, 2023

The Book Ban Conundrums


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has waged a political war on the Woke agenda and things like Critical Race Theory. Many applaud his efforts, a natural backlash against some cases of extremism. Others will say he’s a homophobic racist just seeking to secure points with voters who still make up the vast majority of the US -- whites and heterosexuals. But any culture war is bound to get out of hand and it looks like his recent ban on several children’s books is that watershed moment.   

Or is it? 

A ban- or a removal of a book about the Black and Puerto Rican Baseball Hall-of-Famer  and great humanitarian, Roberto Clemente has caused a stir. 

Florida’s Duvall County Schools removed the book from its system temporarily, for a review. They should review it before removing it, duh! But that said, the question of the book is that it may not be appropriate for elementary school kids to read a book about how a legend was treated differently because of his race. Why would someone believe this is such a hard concept that young kids can’t handle?  

Sure, we’d like our kids to be innocent and not see color, but the world is not like that. 

From a young age, they hear and see things that start to inform their opinions of the world. Teaching the lesson that racism is wrong and that great people overcome it is a story that deserves to be told.   

Then again, we don’t have to teach seven year-olds about every horror and negative aspect of society's history do we? Must a second-grader learn about rape, war, racism, and every monstrous aspect of our bloodied history?  

I don’t like book bans because it chills me on several levels. First, once a librarian or school determines it would acquire or teach a book, I don’t want to see some politician storm in to declare which books need to be banned, censored, or avoided. Trust in your educators and librarians to do what’s right. Give them guidance, but don’t just declare what books must be tossed out.   

Second, it’s a slippery slope to ban some books for some reasons. It won’t be consistent nor fair.  

But, the state of things in this country is not good. Kids are exposed at too young of an age to every societal ill. Girls are quickly trained to hate males, to fear them as sex predators. All kids think that being LGBTQ is the coolest thing, that something is wrong if they aren’t questioning their gender identity. Whites are told they suck and should stop being supremacists. Folks, it’s gone too far. We want equality and respect for all, not for lopsided discussions that distract reality.  

It’s one thing to acknowledge an unjust history and to suggest ways to improve today’s relations between sexes, genders, races, and religions. But to go to the other extremes is to take a sexist, racist, and ugly approach to things that serve no one.  

Take the removal of another book, Henry Aaron’s Dream. The one-time MLB home-run king and great ambassador for the game, Henry Aaron, played baseball during the Jim Crow era in the South, and endured death threats on a regular basis. This children’s book discussed the racism he overcame. What’s wrong with that? The N-word is used a few times.  

If it’s so terrible, in the context of a story about racism, to use the language of that day, isn’t that the whole point? We all should be upset - not with the book, but the society that created such hatred, Aaron is a hero and this book should be read by everyone.  

I don’t know what age is appropriate, but it doesn’t have to be when someone is 18. The story can’t be sanitized. America has seen some awful stuff. Don’t sweep it under the rug. Don’t be angry at the teaching of racism - be angry that our past created the conundrum.  

Still, I can’t see how a six-year-old needs to read the N-word. I wouldn’t want a #MeToo book where a woman is called a c**t and told to blow someone on the casting couch being read by or to a kid in elementary school. 

So, I admit that standards need to be set, but I think two things: Trust in our educators and librarians — and be willing to push the envelope a little when it comes to having open discussions about the dark side of humanity. 

Age-appropriate content is challenging when our society allows young kids to have access to the world. Hello, Tik Tok, Instagram, and the Internet. Hello, streaming television. But this doesn’t mean we abdicate our parenting skills or moral judgment.  

As a Jewish American I had to determine how and when I would explain the Holocaust to my kids. At age seven, I was not going to discuss in any great detail the notion that Jews are hated around the world and were almost exterminated by a mad man. How was I to explain how families were torn apart, women raped, men beaten, people starved, and millions killed merely for loving God? But, they slowly heard things about anti-Semitism, and were given a better understanding of the world’s depth of hatred by the time they reached fifth or sixth grade.  

Last year on a trip to Israel, my then 17-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial. It was eye-opening to them, though they saw some movies and read books years earlier to begin the process of grasping what happened.  

No one has all the answers. We need politics and ignorance removed from the equation - and we must give our authors, educators, and parents flexibility to find what is the right thing and right way to teach our nation’s youngest generation. 

Let facts replace fear.

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About Brian Feinblum

Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2023. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This award-winning blog has generated over 3.3 million pageviews. With 4,400+ posts over the past dozen years, it was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby  and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 years as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Todd Duncan, Susan RoAne, John C. Maxwell, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, Independent Book Publishers Association Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, APEX, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult:  



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