Last week, I wrote a column about depositing copies of Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” into local Little Free Libraries. It was a modest act of defiance as the Pinellas County school district pulled the novel out of all high schools on the heels of a single parent complaint.
The emails and comments poured in and have not stopped. More than 120 letters so far, more than 400 TikTok comments, person after person on their way to bookstores, ordering banned books online, gifting banned books to their children and grandchildren. One reader drove around looking for one of the copies I donated and sent a photo of her teenage daughter holding it.
While a scant few who wrote agreed with the decision to remove the book, the overwhelming majority were outraged, tired, defeated and secretly worried. I heard from plenty of independent-minded voters and lifelong residents fearful about the extreme direction in which Florida is heading.
Here are excerpts from a few of the letters, published with permission and edited for length and clarity.
I grew up in Texas and, I am ashamed to say, allowed myself as a teenager to adopt many racist attitudes. Those racist attitudes were just amplified in my fraternity in college. Not until I went to work for the Houston Chronicle did I finally learn what a fool I was for believing these attitudes. And how, now, throughout my ensuing life I have attempted to make an honest change. “The Bluest Eye” does indeed touch upon many of the situations which I have come to embrace as I did an about-face on race relations.
I will march on to Barnes & Noble and to the book box in my neighborhood.
I’ve been an avid reader for the past 40-plus years, and as a tween and teenager was able to read anything and everything that was out there. It’s depressing to think that children in our society are being hobbled by the banning of books. Thank you for giving everyone the idea of sharing these wonderful books with our neighbors through the Little Free Libraries. I will take up your call to action and stock the Little Free Libraries closest to me.
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As soon as I started reading what Pinellas County was doing by “removing” certain books from the school libraries, I immediately emailed a grand-nephew in Tampa and told him if the same thing happened in Hillsborough, and if there was a book he wanted to read, to let me know. He took me up on it with approval by his father. I am 91 years old and am outraged and appalled by this censorship!
Went online and bought a “Read A Banned Book” T-shirt. Then I remembered that 35 years ago my mother’s favorite sweatshirt was the same. And it listed the banned books either from then or the recent past. I think “Catcher in the Rye” was on it!
I went on Ebay. They have “The Bluest Eye” in paperback for four bucks. They have several. I am putting one in my neighborhood book box. I hope everyone does.
I volunteer at Largo Library in the bookstore and we have a section marked by yellow caution tape with banned books. The customers are loving it and buying the books. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Angela’s Ashes,” “Catcher in the Rye” to name a few. We are making a statement there. I donated my “Bluest Eye” to the store years ago and wish I still had it to put in our little library on our front lawn. I can get more! There is a happy defiance in the way the customers are buying the banned books.
It is sad that ideas are no longer allowed to be shared unless they are in line with one’s own ideology. Our state is becoming more authoritarian each day, with our governor leading the charge. My wife just ordered “The Bluest Eye” on Amazon and plans to offer it up as a selection to her book club.
John and Miriam Innocenti
My first thought was to go find the book in the Dunedin little library box to read and then return. My second thought was to buy copies and keep that little library supplied.
Florida is worth saving. I’m a 74-year-old, nearly lifetime resident of the same street in Clearwater. Florida has been a far better place to be than it is now. The emphasis on stopping “woke” of the current administration has gone way too far.
As a retired, after 32 years, Pinellas County school librarian, thank you! You said it well. I am appalled at this decision and the attacks on school libraries and librarians across the country. If I were still working, I would have been fired by now. Every book banned, I purchase, if it is not currently in my personal library, to make sure it is available to my grandchildren.
Carl Sagan once wrote that in order to speak out against ignorance and misinformation, we must light a candle in the dark … “The candle flame gutters. Its little pool of light trembles. Darkness gathers. The demons begin to stir.”
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