Bay Area author offers to replace books South Dakota school board plans to destroy

Author Dave Eggers says the massive destruction of books by school boards “is an unconscionable horror.” Photo: Yalonda M. James/The Chronicle 2019

Bay Area publisher and author Dave Eggers is giving high school students in Rapid City, SD free copies of the school board’s 400 books plans to destroy.

On Tuesday, May 3, at a meeting that garnered national attention, the the board voted to purge five titles he deemed inappropriate for his students from the classroom, including that of Eggers”The circle.”

“The massive destruction of books by school boards is an unconscionable horror,” Eggers said in a statement posted on his publisher’s website, McSweeney’s. “And young freethinkers in South Dakota should not be subjected to it. For every copy destroyed by the school board, let’s add a new one to local circulation.

The books, which primarily address the struggles of underrepresented individuals and groups, include 30 copies of “Girl, Woman, Other» by Bernardine Evaristo, 75 copies of «The perks of Being a Wallflower» by Stephen Chbosky, 35 copies of «Fun Home: A Tragicomic Family» by Alison Bechdel, 185 copies of «How beautiful we wereby Imbolo Mbue, and 30 copies of “The Circle”.

The books were assigned to English classes for high school students, but Caitlin Pierson, Public Information Officer for Rapid City Area Schools, said the titles have been retired”depending on the content. They were placed on the school district’s surplus list as “to be destroyed” items, according to the Quick Town Diary.

“The first question arose when one of the three high school principals sent me a picture of a page in one of the books, an excerpt, and expressed concern that they didn’t want it in their classrooms,” Valerie Brablec Seales, Rapid City Area Schools’ director of teaching, learning and innovation, told the board.

The Board of Education voted unanimously on Tuesday to delay the decision to destroy the books in order to seek legal advice.

School officials did not specify what they found objectionable in the books. “The Circle” satirizes the cultures and values ​​that have emerged in the internet age. “How Beautiful We Were: A Novel” follows a young woman from a small African village who sparks a revolution against an American oil company.

“Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” is a graphic memoir about author Alison Bechdel’s rocky relationship with her late father. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” includes references to drug and alcohol use and sexual content and has been banned by several other districts. And “Girl, Woman, Other: A Novel” follows the lives and struggles of 12 characters, many of whom are black British women.

Eggers said high school students in the Rapid City area can pick up free copies of all books at Mitzi’s Books, 510 Main St. in Rapid City. He added that he will also send books from independent bookstores to all students who email Amanda Uhle, publisher and executive director of McSweeny’s, directly at [email protected]

A Bay Area literary giant, Eggers is beloved not only for his myriad works of fiction and his Pulitzer Prize-nominated memoir, but also as the founder of McSweeney’s as well as the nonprofit tutoring center. 826 Valencia in San Francisco. Previous Eggers books include “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” and “What is the What”.

The author plans to attend a rally in Mitzi’s books on May 16, a day before the scheduled destruction of the books.

Eggers plans to hold a rally in South Dakota a day before the books are scheduled to be destroyed. Photo: Yalonda M. James/The Chronicle

Accounts of book bans and attempted book bans, alongside threats against librarians, exploded over the past yearaccording to American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Office. in iIn its annual report on the state of America’s libraries, released last month, the association found 729 challenges – affecting nearly 1,600 books – in schools and public libraries in 2021, more than double the numbers from 2020 and the higher since the ALA began compiling challenges over 20 years ago.

The library association defines a “challenge” as a “formal, written complaint to a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of their content or relevance.”

The actual total for the past year is likely much higher – the ALA collects data through media accounts and through cases it learns from librarians, educators and other community members. Books preemptively removed by librarians – out of fear of community protests or concern for their work – and challenges never reported by libraries are not included.

The number may well rise again in 2022, as school boards and Tory-led legislatures pass more restrictions. In April, the Georgian legislature passed a bill that would speed up the process of removing books deemed “harmful to minors.”

And there have been more than 200 cases of public school districts in Florida banning books since last July, the third-highest number of incidents of any U.S. state, according to a report by PEN America, an advocacy group for education professionals. writing.

Governor Ron DeSantis has signed into law a bill that makes it easier for parents to challenge books and educational materials they don’t approve of.

Books banned in Florida school districts, either permanently or pending review, include Isabel Allende’s “The House of Spirits”, Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, “The Rape of Nanking” by Iris Chang, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer, “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley and “Beloved” by Toni Morrison.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lola R. McClure