LABELLE — During the Oct. 17 meeting of the Hendry County School Board LaBelle City Commissioner Hugo Vargas brought up the issue of banned books, referencing a Banned Books Week display at Barron Library. In an Oct. 27 interview with the Caloosa Belle Independent, Vargas explained his stance.
Vargas said the display was brought to his attention by a citizen who sent him photos of the display. He said he visited the library to check it out.
“I did my due diligence as a leader in the community, as a citizen in the community,” said Vargas. “I asked them many questions and they were legitimate questions. And I got some very misleading answers, and redirecting answers and finger pointing answers and they weren’t making sense.”
The library display has since been removed.
One of the photos of the display showed books such as Charlotte’s Web, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Huckleberry Finn, Catcher in the Rye, and 1984.”
“Those are not the reason why I went over there,” Vargas explained. “Don’t make me out to want to ban Charlotte’s Web. That’s not what I am about.”
He said he objected to some of top 10 most challenged books of 2022 also on display.
The Top 10 Challenged Books List includes:
- Gender Queer – Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
- All Boys Aren’t Blue – Reasons: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
- The Bluest Eye – Reasons: Challenged for rape, incest, claimed to be sexually explicit, EDI content
- FLAMER – Reasons: Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
- Looking for Alaska – Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content
- Perks of Being a Wallflower – Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content, rape, drugs, profanity
- Lawn Boy – Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, profanity
- Out of Darkness – Reason: Claimed to be sexually explicit
- (Four-way tie) A Court of Mist and Fury – Reason: Claimed to be sexually explicit; Crank – Reason: Claimed to be sexually explicit, drugs; Me and the Dying Girl – Reason: Claimed to be sexually explicit, profanity; and, This Book is Gay – Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, sex education, claimed to be sexually explicit
The Top Ten list was compiled by the American Library Association and includes challenges to library, school and university materials and services in 2022, with 2,571 unique titles that were challenged or banned in 2022.
LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning), intersex, and asexual (or allies). EDI stands for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
“There are definitely some good reasons why those books are challenged,” Vargas said. “This material aimed at children and the sexualization of children is unacceptable in the city of LaBelle, it’s unacceptable in our county.
“I will not stop fighting for our children. They are our greatest resource. They are the future for the city and for this county. We must protect them,” said Vargas.
“I think that there needs to be a conversation had on what we should be providing to the public with taxpayer money. There’s a reason why these books aren’t acceptable in schools,” he said.
Vargas said he is also concerned these books are in public libraries.
“I’ve been told middle school age children can have access and can check them out with parent permission,” he said. “There are people who don’t pay attention to what their children are doing.”
Vargas acknowledged that some books adults read, such as popular romance novels, have sexual content.
“I don’t see romance novels being pushed to our children,” he said.
He said it’s the city’s responsibility to protect children from inappropriate books, just as they shouldn’t have access to alcohol and drugs.
“That’s not censorship. That’s protecting them. This is not about censoring. It’s protecting our children,” he said.
“There’s an ideology being pushed in this country. We must protect the children, especially the sexualization of children,” he said.
Vargas said some book challenges – such as efforts to ban “Charlotte’s Web” -- are ridiculous.
“There is stuff that is nonsense. Common sense will tell you what is appropriate and what is not appropriate,” he said.
A spokesperson for Barron Library said the Library Board will address the issue with the city commission.
Other reasons for challenging books ...
The Banned Books displays in the photos Vargas shared included:
- “The Great Gatsby” – Banned in 1987 by the Baptist College of Charleston, S.C. for the book’s sexual references and profane language.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – The Harry Potter books made the “most banned” list in schools and libraries in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2019. Those complaining about the books objected to references to witchcraft and wizardry.
- 1984 -- According to the American Library Association, this is one of the most challenged books from decade 2010-2019. Critics object to the political themes, sexuality and violence. In the Soviet Union the book was banned because of its anti-communist viewpoint.
- Charlotte’s Web – The beloved tale of the friendship between a spider and a pig was banned by a Kansas school district in 2006 after a group of people claimed that talking animals were the work of the devil. They also complained the death of a spider was inappropriate in a children’s book.
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, – This book has been controversial since its publication in 1885. The book has been challenged for the use of a racial slur and depictions of racist attitudes.
- The Catcher in the Rye – Since its publication in 1951, the book has been banned more than 25 times in schools across the country. Critics cite the use of foul language and the theme of mental illness as inappropriate for teenaged readers. In 2009, it was banned by a high school in Montana.
100 most banned and challenged books of the last decade
The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiled this list of the most banned and challenged books from 2010-2019 by reviewing both the public and confidential censorship reports it received.
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
- Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
- Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
- Looking for Alaska by John Green
- George by Alex Gino
- And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
- Drama by Raina Telgemeier
- Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
- Internet Girls (series) by Lauren Myracle
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
- Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
- I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Bone (series) by Jeff Smith
- The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
- Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
- A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss
- Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg
- Alice McKinley (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
- It's Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris
- Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
- Scary Stories (series) by Alvin Schwartz
- Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
- A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
- It's a Book by Lane Smith
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by by Mark Twain
- The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
- What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
- A Child Called "It" by Dave Pelzer
- Bad Kitty (series) by Nick Bruel
- Crank by by Ellen Hopkins
- Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
- The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby by Dav Pilkey
- This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman
- This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
- A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- Goosebumps (series) by R.L. Stine
- In Our Mothers' House by Patricia Polacco
- Lush by by Natasha Friend
- The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
- The Holy Bible
- This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson
- Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
- Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
- Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily von Ziegesar
- House of Night (series) by P.C. Cast
- My Mom's Having A Baby by Dori Hillestad Butler
- Neonomicon by Alan Moore
- The Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
- Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
- Draw Me a Star by Eric Carle
- Dreaming In Cuban by Cristina Garcia
- Fade by Lisa McMann
- The Family Book by Todd Parr
- Feed by M.T. Anderson
- Go the F--k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach
- Habibi by Craig Thompson
- House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
- Jacob's New Dress by Sarah Hoffman
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
- Monster by Walter Dean Myers
- Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter
- Saga by Brian K. Vaughan
- Stuck in the Middle by Ariel Schrag
- The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal
- 1984 by George Orwell
- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
- Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher
- Awakening by Kate Chopin
- Burned by Ellen Hopkins
- Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
- Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
- Glass by Ellen Hopkins
- Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesle´a Newman
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- Madeline and the Gypsies by Ludwig Bemelmans
- My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis
- Prince and Knight by Daniel Haack
- Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology by Amy Sonnie
- Skippyjon Jones (series) by Judith Schachner
- So Far from the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins
- The Color of Earth (series) by Tong-hwa Kim
- The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter
- The Walking Dead (series) by Robert Kirkman
- Tricks by Ellen Hopkins
- Uncle Bobby’s Wedding by Sarah S Brannen
- Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
The Bible is number 52 on the 100 Most Challenged Books list. Many of the challenges were reactions to bans of other books. Most recently, in 2022, the Escambia County School District pulled the Bible from school classroom shelves for review. According to the complaint form, the Bible was challenged for “sexism, sex, violence, genocide, slavery, rape and bestiality.” The person who complained attached excerpts from the Bible to justify the allegations. The school district opted to keep the Bible after learning the Florida Legislature had already determined the Bible is an “appropriate instructional resource” in public schools.