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Iowa School District Pulls Controversial Books

Teachers in the Iowa state school district of Urbandale have been instructed to remove titles that include James Joyce’s Ulysses, JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Alice Walker’s The Colour Purple from their shelves in case they infringe Senate File 496 which requires teachers and administrators to review their libraries and classrooms for books that depict sex acts and prohibits them from buying them in the first place.

Sara Hayden Parris, the founder of Annie’s Foundation, a group that opposes book removals, and whose children used to attend Urbandale schools, said: “I’m familiar enough with lists from other states that I wasn’t necessarily surprised. But it’s still shocking and sickening to see the books on there.”

Dena Claire, spokesperson for the Urbandale district, said the list is meant to provide guidance to K-12 teachers about books that might violate the state law.  She added: “We had to take a fairly broad interpretation of the law knowing that if our interpretation was too finite, our teachers and administrators could be faced with disciplinary actions according to the new law.”

The Republican-majority Legislature passed Senate File 496 this year and Gov. Kim Reynolds signed it in May. It took effect on 1 July, but penalties for educators who keep these books in their classrooms or school libraries will not take effect until 1 January 2024.

According to the Des Moines Register, when legislators debated the changes this spring, much of the focus was on a handful of contemporary that explore sexuality and LGBTQ stories, such as the memoirs Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe and All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson, which contain overt images and descriptions of sexual activity.

 

With barely a week passing without news of book banning in some quarter of the US, the issue of censorship particularly over sexuality continues to dominate book industry discussion.

 

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