Todd Reynolds: Those who would ban books think certain students have no value
Todd Reynolds wrote this letter to the editors of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
Book banning is never about the book. The poor reader will highlight one passage and express disgust. They will take passages out of context, and fake outrage, and call for a book to be removed.
But the purpose of a book ban is not to remove a book. It’s to erase a student that the complaining parent does not like: the student who is represented in the book, who may only find that book in a school library. That student could be Black, or Hispanic, or LGBTQ+, or simply an outsider, or quiet. One thing is certain. Book banners do not think that student has value.
YA author Jarrett Krosoczka said, “Missing in that outrage is that their kids’ peers are, indeed, living the lives featured in those books. So, by saying a book is inappropriate, they are saying that the other kids themselves are inappropriate.”
YA author Jason Reynolds said, “We claim that we want our children to grow up to be better than we are. And in order to do so, they must have the information that we did not have. So, to stop that information really makes us all hypocrites.”
When these parents approve of characters, they don’t object. They support stories of teenage sex, rebellion and suicide (Romeo and Juliet), spousal neglect and murder (Othello), patricide and matricide (Hamlet).
When the main character represents someone they don’t like, they erase that character, and those students. They erase Tiffany D. Jackson because she writes about Black girls. They erase Ellen Hopkins because she writes about characters going through drug addiction, rape and unwanted pregnancy.
These parents want to ban kids from their existence, to make sure that students who live a life different from the complaining parents cannot see themselves valued in any way.
If they don’t want their children to read those books, they can stop them from reading those books. They have no right to erase other students in the school, to stop access to books for other students.
They do not have the right to determine whose story is valued and whose is erased.