InvestigationEven a monument like “Maus”, by Art Spiegelman, paid the price. Since the pandemic, school councils, which choose books for students, have intensified the blacklisting of books dealing with sex, gender or “race”. A cancel culture mainly practiced by the conservative camp.
Mary Ellen Cuzela approaches the wooden desk. At the microphone, his voice is perfectly calm, but a cold anger animates him. This resident of Katy, in the suburbs of Houston (Texas), in the United States, faces the members of the school council on which her children depend. It’s a routine meeting, one among many, one evening in November 2021, but, for her, it’s finally the opportunity to be heard. “We need your help and an immediate action plan to clean up the obscene, vulgar and pornographic books currently in libraries” establishments in the district, she says. In his right hand, Me and Earl and the Dying Girlby Jesse Andrews, which Katy high schoolers can find in their schools.
A novel where two high school friends tweak a film for a friend suffering from cancer. “I want to know how this book was approved and who approved it,” intimate Mary Ellen Cuzela. She opens the book, finds the page she had previously selected and reads a few excerpts, including a dialogue between the two young people who talk about “pussy eating”before the narrator notes that it often happens that one of them is “really rude”. She will not go further, the case is heard for her. “And it’s only one book. There are several hundred that we need to check in our libraries,” she concludes, to applause.
What can be read – or not
The scene, filmed, made the rounds of the media. The strategy paid off. In February, the school council had withdrawn ten books, dont Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, under the pretext of “generalized vulgarity”. Texas, Arizona, Wisconsin, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida, Illinois… Not a week goes by without the local or national press echoing a banned book, a book removed from a school curriculum or from the shelves of a school following a complaint from parents. It’s a conservative cancel culture. Sex, sexual identity, gender, racism, the pretexts are multiple and the censored titles numerous, such as Beloved, by Toni Morrison, The Scarlet Maid, de Margaret Atwood, All Boys Aren’t Blue, by George M. Johnson, or The hate we give, by Angie Thomas.
What was also the surprise of the cartoonist Art Spiegelman to learn, in January, that his Mouse, comic book monument on the Shoah, Pulitzer Prize 1992, would no longer be studied by students in 4e from a college in Tennessee. Unanimously, the school council qualified the content of “vulgar” and D’“inappropriate” – for eight swear words and a picture of a naked woman. In the progressive camp, the attacks also exist but are less numerous. The great classic of Harper Lee, Took no mockingbirdPulitzer Prize 1961, is thus regularly implicated or banned for “the staging of a character of “white savior” and the perception of the experience of black people”.
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