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Monday, December 11th, 2023

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Is there a widespread effort here in Louisiana to ban certain books?  As many of you know, I publish books, and am an avid reader.  In all my years living here in the Bayou state, I can’t remember any effort to control what books are available in our local libraries. But this has now changed.

Other states have jumped into the book banning business.  Did you know that the popular book, “All the King’s Men “has been banned in Texas?  If you have not read it, you’ve missed quite a story based loosely on the life of Governor Huey Long. It was written by Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989), who was named USA’s first poet laureate in 1986. Warren was also an LSU professor and won a Pulitzer prize for his popular novel.  Dallas libraries banned this marvelous book because it’s supposedly contained a “depressive view of life” and “immoral situations.”  I just wish instead of banning the book, more people would read it.

The most banned book worldwide in recent years is George Orwell’s “1984.”  Orwell wrote about government controlling our daily lives. This has been called the most definitive novel of the 20th century, has sold millions of copies and has been translated into 65 languages.  Orwell wrote about the thought police and created the phase “Big brother is watching you.” He was a perceptive guy about what happens today with mass surveillance and what many of us feel is governmental overreach. But the book just did not set well with many totalitarian governments throughout the world.

You might be surprised at other books banned in libraries throughout the United States that include “To kill a Mockingbird,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Catcher in the Rye,” and “The Color Purple” just to list a few classics. There are several lawsuits challenging the right of local governments with library boards to ban certain books, and these cases are heading to the U.S. Supreme Court.

So what’s the current status on banning books in Louisiana?  The legislature just this past summer passed a new law restricting access by minors to books that are defined as sexually explicit. Governor Edwards signed the law under protest by many libraries and free speech advocates.  The new law was strongly supported by Louisiana’s new governor, Jeff Landry.  Conservative activists throughout the state pushed for this legislation.

Here’s what the new law entails. Each library in the state will now be required to set up a card system so that parents can list restrictions on what their child can check out. Library boards in each parish will make the final decision on what books will be made available and to who can or cannot check out a book. Pretty Orwellian if you ask me. I wish more of our kids were reading books instead of being restricted on what they can read.

If you believe that government serves us best at the local level, and think that citizens should have a direct say on how they raise their children, then it’s hard to oppose the new system in place. You can’t have it both ways. A state government cannot determine what an individual can or cannot read, and turn around and say, “Oh, we definitely want to have local government with full input from parents make this decision.”

I personally would like to feel that I’ve raised my children in a way that they will use common sense on what books to read. Sure I would oversee just what young kids in my family are reading. But I do not like the thought that Big Brother is making these decisions.

On the other hand, I don’t want someone from either the state or federal government intervening. We elect police juries and mayors in our state, and trust them to make the right decision. If they do not, then we vote them out of office. I’m OK with some restrictions that are placed on what young people can read. Perhaps putting books that are determined to be inappropriate in a separate section.

 But parents need to take the responsibility to monitor what their children are reading, just as they should be monitoring their child’s social media. The responsibility for any restrictions should begin right at home.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com. You can also listen to his regular podcast at www.datelinelouisiana.com.







3 Responses
  1. N. Phillips

    Mr. Brown, you need to take a look at the books and the Intentionality with which they were being placed. Public libraries have limited funds and the selection of these books is intentional. As an avid lifelong reader and a parent of public, parochial, private and homeschooled kids, there is too much rich literature and learning resources missing from our local libraries to sit quietly as these base publications are Inserted.

  2. So has your local library board, appointed by your police jury or councilman, set up guidelines? Have you talked to your library board? And it’s interesting to note that I was a public official for 28 years in Louisiana, and up until the last year or so, I’ve never heard a complaint, about how our libraries are run.

  3. Bob Crowley

    I read The Caine Mutiny when I was in the 4th grade despite its depiction of torrid love scenes, it didn’t ruin me for life. Instead it whetted my appetite for meaningful relationships with women (girls at that time). I’m much more concerned about the vile lyrics of rap music and its glorification of gun violence and total degradation of women than any depiction of gay life and sex that kids can get their hands on, If the book banners were smart they’d realize kids can get their hands on anything due to the Internet. I hope they do get their hands on perhaps Huckleberry Finn. My American English teacher at the University of Florida said forget trying to write the great American novel. It’s already been written-Huckleberry Finn. Hemingway said the same thing about it.

    Bob Crowley

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