Red-State Book Crackdowns and Romance Novels: The Absurdity of Censorship

In recent months, book bans have become increasingly common in red-state America. The latest targets of censorship include romance novels, which are being banned under the guise of “pornography”. This is a dangerous trend that threatens to limit readers’ access to diverse perspectives and undermine intellectual freedom.

One recent example of this trend is the case of Nora Roberts, the bestselling author of more than 225 romance novels. A group called Moms for Liberty, led by Julie Marshall, succeeded in having eight of Roberts’ books removed from high school libraries in Martin County, Florida. Marshall’s only objection to the books, according to forms obtained by the Florida Freedom to Read Project, was that they were “adult romance novels” that had “absolutely no reason to be in school libraries”. This led to the books being removed without any further elaboration or consideration of their literary merit.

Roberts has defended her books, arguing that they depict “monogamous” and “consensual” relationships that end in marriage. She has criticized the censorship of her books, saying that it is ridiculous to prevent teenagers from reading about healthy relationships. However, this did not stop Moms for Liberty from targeting her books and successfully having them removed from school libraries.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. A recent report by PEN America found nearly 1,500 instances of schools banning books during the first half of the 2022-2023 year. In many cases, these bans were based on vague and frivolous rationales, such as the books supposedly containing “pornography”. This has led to the banning of books about puberty, sex education, and LGBTQ characters, as well as romance novels.

The problem with these bans is that they are often based on vague and poorly defined directives, which enable individuals to remove books based on their own personal biases and prejudices. This is a dangerous trend that threatens to undermine intellectual freedom and limit readers’ access to diverse perspectives.

In the case of Roberts’ books, it is clear that the censorship was driven by a misguided and ill-informed campaign by Moms for Liberty. Rather than engaging in a thoughtful discussion about the merits of Roberts’ books which are loved by readers worldwide, they simply objected to them on the grounds that they were “adult romance novels”. This is a dangerous approach to censorship that has no place in a democratic society.

Ultimately, the censorship of romance novels is part of a broader trend of book bans that is taking place across the United States. This is a dangerous trend that threatens to limit readers’ access to diverse perspectives and undermine intellectual freedom. It is time to push back against these efforts and defend the right of readers to access a wide range of literature, including romance novels.

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