Author targeted by Florida book bans shreds 'truly egregious' censorship
Ron DeSantis on Jan. 26, 2022, in Miami. - Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America/TNS

Faced with mounting backlash, Gov. Ron DeSantis has denied that his legislation and policies in Florida are banning books, even though images are flooding out of the state of empty school library shelves. He is claiming that in reality, only a small subset of inappropriate content is being removed.

Author Jodi Picoult, whose books have been targeted in the removals, has written a scathing analysis of the situation in Florida that was published by The Daily Beast on Monday.

"In the past six months, my books have been banned dozens of times in dozens of school districts. As sad as it seems, I was getting used to the emails from PEN America’s Jonathan Friedman telling me that yet again, my novel was under attack. But this week, something truly egregious happened. In Martin Country School District, 92 books were pulled from the school library shelves. Twenty of them were mine," wrote Picoult. "The 92 books fell into three categories: those with mature content, those written by BIPOC authors, and those written by LGBTQ authors. My books were removed because they were, according to the sole parent who made the challenge, 'adult romance that should not be on school shelves.'"

This is, Picoult noted, despite the fact that "I do not write adult romance. The majority of the books that were targeted do not even have a kiss in them. What they do have, however, are issues like racism, abortion rights, gun control, gay rights, and other topics that encourage kids to think for themselves."

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These topics aren't explicitly prohibited under DeSantis' new laws, Picoult said — but the laws effectively lets any parent challenge any book for any reason, without having to explain what the inappropriate content is, and teachers are ordered to "err on the side of caution" and remove all sorts of books for review, under threat of penalties. Some individual activists have gotten thousands of books removed in certain districts.

"The banned books on these lists are not salacious or revolutionary. What children are actually being exposed to are lives different from their own, and mindsets different from their own—which creates compassion and empathy. In other cases, children are being exposed to ideas and mindsets exactly like their own, which provides representation and validity and a sense of belonging," wrote Picoult, noting that her most banned book, "Nineteen Minutes," is about a school shooting, and the only reason for its ban is a brief, anatomical description of date rape.

"We know categorically that kids who feel marginalized and who read books with characters like themselves wind up feeling less marginalized," explained Picoult. "Kids who have never encountered someone different from them get to do so in the safe space of a book, and it leads to understanding. Books help people find common ground; book bans spotlight the differences between us."

"In the brilliant words of Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, books create windows through which kids can escape and mirrors in which they can find themselves," she said. "We want you to stand in solidarity with us, the writers who create these books. Because we’ve seen, historically, what the next chapter looks like when we don’t speak out against book challenges… and that story does not end well."