Book Bans

Iowa Admitted the Shocking Truth About Its Latest Anti-Gay Book Ban

Last month, a new Iowa law redefining what constitutes age-appropriate reading materials for school children went into effect, and its vague wording has led to an expansive list of banned books. While the primary targets are books LGBTQ+ and BIPOC issues, the list covers a wide spectrum from classic novels to picture books, from Heartstopper to 1984.

Senate File 496, which is largely modeled on Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, bans any instruction relating to sexual orientation or gender identity. Gov Kim Reynolds signed the bill into law in May, and although the legislation went into effect on July 1, schools have until the start of next year before penalties are enforced.

As with many anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have come before it, critics have pointed out just how easy it is to violate the law, given how unclear those violations are. When faced with professional consequences over the slightest parental complaint, school administrators would be incentivized to err on the side of caution and ban any book that deals with anything even remotely controversial.

The list of 374 books set to be banned by the Urbandale school district in Iowa, acquired by the Des Moines Register, demonstrates exactly this approach to library bans. Dena Claire, a spokesperson for the district, explained that the list is purposefully broad so that there is no chance teachers will face consequences. Although the list is characterized as guidance for K-12 teachers, books on the list are required to be removed.

“We had to take a fairly broad interpretation of the law knowing that if our interpretation was too finite, our teachers and administrators could be faced with disciplinary actions according to the new law,” Claire’s statement read.

SF 496 specifically calls out material depicting “sex acts” as being inappropriate, but the list includes several picture books with no such references. Some examples are And Tango Makes Three, about gay penguins raising a chick, I Love My Colorful Nails, about a child bullied for painting their nails, and Sharice’s Big Voice: A Native Kid Becomes a Congresswoman, about Kansas’s first Native American LGBTQ+ congresswoman. One of the books, You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P!, was evidently put on the list because two minor characters are a pair of lesbian aunts.

Many classic novels, such as Beloved, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Ulysses, were all banned. And contemporary novels by queer and BIPOC authors joined them: All Boys Aren’t Blue, The Hate U Give, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Iowa’s House Majority Leader, Jennifer Konfrst, described the list as the “natural consequence of a bill that was passed for political headlines instead of students’ best interest.”

One queer school board member, Dan Gutmann, expressed anger at the list. “I was a child sitting in an elementary school at one point,” Gutmann said. “I’m also the father of a student. I take offense to the idea that my family is age-inappropriate. I find that incredibly offensive.”

Don't forget to share:

Read More in Entertainment
The Latest on INTO