May 8, 2024

Steve Nuzum: Book Bans in the Real World

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Steve Nuzum has been filing FOIA requests to find out exactly what is happening with book bans in South Carolina. Part One of his series of posts is here. Here is an excerpt from the second post in the series.

There seems to have been a shift in media coverage around book bans in recent months, from some frankly gullible early coverage that seemed to take groups like Moms for Liberty at their words that a significant number of parents are outraged at “woke indoctrination”. But as time has gone on, the narrative has begun to reflect the reality these FOIA requests confirm: most people aren’t challenging books in South Carolina, and this seems to hold true across the country.

The narrative has shifted so much, in fact, that some of its major instigators, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, have begun to acknowledge publicly that maybe allowing political organizations carte blanche to ban books was a dumb move.

Since the first piece I wrote on state book challenges, I was able— through the help of some kind donors— to pay for some more requests. Most of the information from these requests has been covered in previous pieces, but I did want to spend some time on the small number of documents I received from Charleston Schools.


If the documents provided by Charleston’s school district tell the complete story, or something close to it, only three books have been challenged in the district in recent years.

The first of the challenged books is Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag (available in full as a free read aloud by the author).

The complainant who challenged Pride makes a number of arguments that are hard to sustain (or even follow) after reading the actual book.

First, she starts with an accusation, which will be familiar to anyone following the evolution of the general book ban narrative, of “LGBTQ indoctrination” (this is, effectively, 2024’s answer to “CRT”: a weasel word that stands in for any kind of vague stuff about the existence of gay people, and by extension anything else book banners might not like).

Like Anne Frank’s Diary, another book challenged across the country, often for containing LGBTQ+ themes, Pride can’t really be argued to be indoctrinating anyone about anything. The book’s tone is consistently gentle— and in my mind completely appropriate to young audiences— and the only idea it emphasizes is that everyone (gasp!) should be able to live freely.

Read the full post here. 

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