Just 11 people are responsible for requesting the majority of book bans

In the first 8 months of 2023 alone 1,915 book titles were challenged or banned in the US, and most of those books had LGBTQ+, black, or brown authors and/or subject matters. Oh, and sex was usually involved. This summer The Washington Post turned out some startling research that showed the majority of these book bans were down to the work of… 11 people, total. This week Business Insider highlighted one such individual. I defy you to read about her without screaming:

A Virginia woman dedicated herself to challenging at least one book per week — an effort that has caused a schism in her community as well as hours of unpaid labor for school librarians.

Jennifer Petersen, 48, spends hours scanning books for content she finds sexually explicit and filing challenges with Spotsylvania County Public Schools, where one of her children is enrolled and another is a recent graduate, The Washington Post reported.

Out of 73 books she read in one year, she challenged 71 of them, the Post reported. The remaining two were removed before she had the chance to get to them.

In her complaints, seen by the Post, she wrote that one book “reads like a how-to guide for raping teens.” Another “normalizes teen sex and… glorifies and incites teens to have sex,” she wrote.

She told the Post that she considers whether the content is sexually explicit or obscene based on definitions provided by Virginia Law.

According to an analysis by the Post, 60% of book challenges made in the 2021-2022 school year came from the same 11 adults. Petersen was one of them. The majority of objections were on books authored by or about LGBTQ+ people or people of color.

While some members of the community have praised Petersen, others have called the effort a waste of time and money. A library staffer told the Post that nearly a dozen people spent 40 hours per week just on Petersen’s book challenges.

Petersen’s ongoing effort comes at a time when book-banning efforts are going national. While most challenges and bans focused on school libraries under the guise of protecting unknowing children, an increasing number of challenges are targeting public libraries that are accessible to entire communities, The New York Times reported.

[From Business Insider]

I swear, each sentence made me more infuriated than the last. Starting from the top: Jennifer Petersen doesn’t say she’s dedicated to reading a book a week, but to challenging one a week. The phrase “solution in search of a problem” comes to mind. Then there was more wording I took issue with, because at first they say she scans books for sexually explicit content, but then later report that she challenged 71 of the 73 books she read. There’s a world of difference between scanning and reading, mon frère. So is she actually reading, digesting, and processing these books? Or is she really just running her finger line by line in search of scary buzzwords like “smooch” or “canoodle” or “whoopee,” hmm? And as for the argument that these books are inciting teens to have sex… Current and former teens out there, please weigh in: was it all the reading you were getting up to that got you all hot and bothered? Yeah, I thought so.

Happy Banned Books Week!

— Excited Utterance (@ExcitedUttRead) September 28, 2023

— American Library Association (@ALALibrary) September 29, 2023

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