If it sometimes feels as if we’re all living inside a dystopian movie we cannot escape from, that’s because we sometimes are. Case in point: At this very second, elected officials and school board members in Virginia are very seriously discussing the possibility of an organized book-burning session in order to rid their community of books that someone, somewhere, has deemed inappropriate for the area’s younger readers.
You need to *see* and *hear* the Virginia elected officials set forth their plan to burn books they oppose — one of which the American Library Association named a “Best Book for Young Adults”
This nation’s march toward fascism is turning into a full sprint. pic.twitter.com/jgmfSaAHGU
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) November 10, 2021
As Insider reports, it all began when Virginia’s Spotsylvania County School Board demanded that any and all “sexually-explicit” books be removed from library shelves in the county starting immediately. But since deeming what might be too explicit can be a matter of personal taste, there are also a series of books that are up for review by the school board; if they fail the board’s smut sniff test, into the burn pile they’ll go.
The directive to remove “sexually explicit” books was seemingly prompted by a school board meeting on Monday during which parents expressed concerns about literature students can access via the Riverbend High School’s digital library app.
One parent was apparently alarmed by the availability of “LGBTQIA” fiction, the Lance-Star said, and found a book called 33 Snowfish by Adam Rapp especially troubling. The American Library Association named the book a Best Book for Young Adults in 2004. According to a Publishers Weekly review, the book is “dark tale about three runaways who understand hatred and violence better than love.”
Feeding this fire is the promise of newly-minted Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin, who promised during his campaign that banning the teaching of “critical race theory” in the classroom was something he would address on day one of his tenure.
While this particular incident is relegated to Virginia, it seems to be a microcosm of conversations taking place at school board meetings across the country. In an analysis of the book-burning chatter being heard across the country, Philip Bump wrote a piece for The Washington Post in which he noted:
One might justifiably dismiss this incident as an exception, one member of one small school board making one comment about destroying books. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake, though, points out the broader context. Republican officials (like those in Virginia) have repeatedly called for the removal of books from school and public libraries in recent weeks, or have called for material to be reviewed as a first step to that end.
What’s useful to keep in mind about these efforts is how they contrast with the efforts to which they’ve been compared, the burning of books in Nazi Germany. As the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum points out in this video, the impetus for removing books from university libraries in the 1930s was largely to eliminate anti-German rhetoric and thought. Though it eventually became a tool of the state, many initial efforts stemmed from enthusiastic university students who sought a sort of ideological purification of their schools.
If by “useful” Bump means “terrifying,” then he’s absolutely right.