Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman (“a farmer, a father, and a proud Vermonter”) is leading a “Banned Books Tour” around Vermont. Curating books is good; banning them is bad, in my view, so I attended his appearance at the Phoenix Bookstore in Rutland, Vermont. He and two others read excerpts from banned books they had chosen. State Representative William Notte read an excerpt from a graphic novel, DRAMA, by Raina Telgemeier and praised comic books. Mia Schultz, the local NAACP president, read a passage from STAMPED, by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds. Then Zuckerman read a powerful passage from BELOVED which left me, well, stunned, as Toni Morrison often leaves me. So far, so good.
Then we got to the discussion period, which devolved into some silly woke stuff that isolated me, apparently, from the rest of the crowd. I’ll dwell on one example. Lt. Gov. Zuckerman conceded that the final decision about what books to read should lie with parents. and nobody wanted to take that away from them. He declared that parents had every right to have a little talk with the librarian, and ask not to check a certain book out to their child. Sounds pretty anodyne, right? Yet such a flabby suggestion leaves librarians with as poor guidance as doctors encounter when trying to obey broad, flabby abortion laws. Guidelines like Zuckerman’s state an aspiration rather than a rule, and would leave librarians flailing. A busy library will check out anywhere from dozens to hundreds of books every day. Let’s say the parents ask the librarian not to let nine-year-old Freddy check out BELOVED. There is usually more than one librarian, so this request has to be placed on an easily accessible master list. Will they have to consult the list for every minor child checking out a book? And if nine-year-old Freddy is to be denied the book, what about his fifteen-year-old sister Sally? She’s part of the same family. Is the book to be denied to her, too? How long does the list last? Until Freddy is of age? If so, will the librarians have to list the age of every child so they won’t be denying access when they reach 18? And what would be the punishment if a busy librarian let BELOVED slip into Freddy’s hands one day? Would the librarian be fired? Harrassed? Criticized? Fined? If I were a librarian, I’d find Zuckerman’s guideline terrifying. It would leave enforcement up to the very people most likely to fight censorship. The person who tells little Freddy that he can’t read BELOVED would not be his parent, but the librarian.
This kind of silly wokeness trivializes the issues we are confronted with today. There are profound values at stake and flaccid pandering will not resolve them. A soon to be published memoir of mine was rejected by one publisher because it “made me sound like a TERF.” (FYI: trans-exclusionary radical feminist). I doubt they actually read the book, since it is a tender, but frank, remembrance of my beloved husband, whose gender dysphoria likely led to his suicide..hardly the stuff of a radical feminist who doesn’t like transgender people. Flippant woke judgments are as dangerous to our union, and as exclusionary, as the superficial judgments made by racists and embittered patriarchs.