Just 11 people are responsible for requesting the majority of book bans

In the first 8 months of 2023 alone 1,915 book titles were challenged or banned in the US, and most of those books had LGBTQ+, black, or brown authors and/or subject matters. Oh, and sex was usually involved. This summer The Washington Post turned out some startling research that showed the majority of these book bans were down to the work of… 11 people, total. This week Business Insider highlighted one such individual. I defy you to read about her without screaming:

A Virginia woman dedicated herself to challenging at least one book per week — an effort that has caused a schism in her community as well as hours of unpaid labor for school librarians.

Jennifer Petersen, 48, spends hours scanning books for content she finds sexually explicit and filing challenges with Spotsylvania County Public Schools, where one of her children is enrolled and another is a recent graduate, The Washington Post reported.

Out of 73 books she read in one year, she challenged 71 of them, the Post reported. The remaining two were removed before she had the chance to get to them.

In her complaints, seen by the Post, she wrote that one book “reads like a how-to guide for raping teens.” Another “normalizes teen sex and… glorifies and incites teens to have sex,” she wrote.

She told the Post that she considers whether the content is sexually explicit or obscene based on definitions provided by Virginia Law.

According to an analysis by the Post, 60% of book challenges made in the 2021-2022 school year came from the same 11 adults. Petersen was one of them. The majority of objections were on books authored by or about LGBTQ+ people or people of color.

While some members of the community have praised Petersen, others have called the effort a waste of time and money. A library staffer told the Post that nearly a dozen people spent 40 hours per week just on Petersen’s book challenges.

Petersen’s ongoing effort comes at a time when book-banning efforts are going national. While most challenges and bans focused on school libraries under the guise of protecting unknowing children, an increasing number of challenges are targeting public libraries that are accessible to entire communities, The New York Times reported.

[From Business Insider]

I swear, each sentence made me more infuriated than the last. Starting from the top: Jennifer Petersen doesn’t say she’s dedicated to reading a book a week, but to challenging one a week. The phrase “solution in search of a problem” comes to mind. Then there was more wording I took issue with, because at first they say she scans books for sexually explicit content, but then later report that she challenged 71 of the 73 books she read. There’s a world of difference between scanning and reading, mon frère. So is she actually reading, digesting, and processing these books? Or is she really just running her finger line by line in search of scary buzzwords like “smooch” or “canoodle” or “whoopee,” hmm? And as for the argument that these books are inciting teens to have sex… Current and former teens out there, please weigh in: was it all the reading you were getting up to that got you all hot and bothered? Yeah, I thought so.

Happy Banned Books Week!

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20 Responses to “Just 11 people are responsible for requesting the majority of book bans”

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  1. These 11 need something better to do with their lives! May I suggest 11 sharp shooters to help them look for something more positive to do?

    • Lady D says:

      I’ve never wanted a Like button more.

      • Ctolentino says:

        Amen! You took the words out of my mouth!! I am so glad when I went to school in the 80’s we read what we wanted to and formed our own opinions!! What these Conservatives are doing is going to backfire, when these kids get out in the world, and see how it really is — they are going to “HATE” all the people that lied to them!! Mind my words — LOL!!!

  2. JackieJacks says:

    In that photo from X/Twitter that lady looks like a total Karen. What a sad life she must lead to devote it to this nonsense. Also instead of looking at books with LGBTQ themes to ban is she also looking at other books that are much more problematic that kiddos have access to like say Flowers in the Attic??? (IYKYK) just saying…. 🤷‍♀️

  3. Riley says:

    As a librarian, this just boils my blood.

  4. AB says:

    Yikes. I will never understand this sort of thinking. I can’t access the WaPo article so I don’t know if it talks about her motivations, if she has any besides keeping kids from reading about sex? I don’t get it. I feel for her kids.

  5. Mslove says:

    Our state superintendent set up a tip line for inappropriate material in schools, but got memes and insults instead, lololol.

  6. K says:

    All you need is a small band of crazed believers willing to do anything .That’s how so many horrific episodes thru history have started. Here in my town a small group of Trumper people regularly storm into the library and accuse the librarians of taking down their Trump signs. Wack.

  7. Ctolentino says:

    Amen! You took the words out of my mouth!! I am so glad when I went to school in the 80’s we read what we wanted to and formed our own opinions!! What these Conservatives are doing is going to backfire, when these kids get out in the world, and see how it really is — they are going to “HATE” all the people that lied to them!! Mind my words — LOL!!!

  8. Becks1 says:

    I said this a few weeks ago but I am in a county that is being taken over by M4L and the book banning requests are out of control. Like, so out of control that at least one BOE member who ran on a M4L platform came out and SAID “this is a solution without a problem” and also raised the point about the money and time spent on this. Another point she made was that kids aren’t reading books from the school library anyway so what does it matter?

    I disagree with her last point about school libraries, but as a general rule for teenagers….the minute you tell them they can’t read or do something, they’re going to want to read or do that. If these books are so problematic, why call attention to them like this??

  9. Celina says:

    I hate to assume but what exactly is this person’s educational background? Does she have a background in law since she “scans” for content that violates policy? Does she have a literature-related degree? Any experience in academia at all?

    • Becks1 says:

      The one in my area who is leading the banning is a MOM and that is enough according to her TYVM.

  10. Erica says:

    If you think you were embarrassed by your mom in high school…

    • Thnuggaboo says:

      My mom used to scare the sh*t out of our little pisswater school in Nebraska. Not for reasons like this tho, thankfully. We weren’t one of the “founding families” so we were trash and treated like such….and mom wasn’t having it. One teacher liked to bop one of my sisters on the head with a heavy book, thinking he was funny or something. Then mom found out…..got the principal, assistant principal, the teacher, the teacher’s union president, my sister and mom all in the same room and told them if she ever heard of another teacher laying a hand or any object on one of her kids she’d come back up there and “cream their ass”. Mom was all of 5’2 and had the most pronounced Southern drawl from her homestate of Alabama. After that they never wanted to have to call my mom about anything,,,,,,

  11. Blithe says:

    It’s wild to me that instead of focusing just on their own kids and what they read, these people are shoving their own very racist and homophobic standards throughout an entire community — in the guise of concern about so-called “porn”.

    This really hits home for me since school libraries, public libraries, and other kinds of access to reading materials were truly a saving grace for me — that helped change the trajectory of my life. Karen shouldn’t get to wield this kind of influence.

    I live near Virginia. I wonder if there are any local organized efforts on the other side that I can join and support?

    Cynically, I’ve always wondered if people like this have actually read the Bible. The Whole entire Bible. The whole entire Bible in the same translations that I read as a kid. SMH yet again.

  12. Libra says:

    People try to ban or forbid behaviors or thoughts or words that frighten them because they see a glimmer of truth that exists in their own mind about their own thoughts and behaviors. I wish I could state this better. It would be interesting to know the kind of books that he book banners themselves read. That might be some insight in why they feel the need to ban what others read. Sorry, this is just not coming out right but hopefully you can figure out what I mean.

  13. Macky says:

    Too bad she is being lazy with “helping the children”. If she likes to read why doesn’t she volunteer to read at a children’s home.