City commissioner explains objections to 'banned books' display

Posted 10/30/23

During the Oct. 17 meeting of the Hendry County School Board LaBelle City Commissioner...

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City commissioner explains objections to 'banned books' display


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. 

LABELLE -- Barron Library observed Banned Books Week.
LABELLE -- Barron Library observed Banned Books Week.

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: 

  1. Gender Queer – Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit 
  2. All Boys Aren’t Blue – Reasons: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit 
  3. The Bluest Eye – Reasons: Challenged for rape, incest, claimed to be sexually explicit, EDI content 
  4. FLAMER – Reasons: Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit 
  5. Looking for Alaska – Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content 
  6. Perks of Being a Wallflower – Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, LGBTQIA+ content, rape, drugs, profanity 
  7. Lawn Boy – Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, claimed to be sexually explicit 
  8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian – Reasons: Claimed to be sexually explicit, profanity 
  9. Out of Darkness – Reason: Claimed to be sexually explicit 
  10. (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.

  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian  by Sherman Alexie
  2. Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey
  3. Thirteen Reasons Why  by Jay Asher
  4. Looking for Alaska  by John Green
  5. George  by Alex Gino
  6. And Tango Makes Three  by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  7. Drama  by Raina Telgemeier
  8. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
  9. Internet Girls (series) by Lauren Myracle
  10. The Bluest Eye  by Toni Morrison
  11. The Kite Runner  by Khaled Hosseini
  12. Hunger Games  by Suzanne Collins
  13. I Am Jazz by Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel
  14. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  15. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  16. Bone (series) by Jeff Smith
  17. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  18. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
  19. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss
  20. Sex is a Funny Word  by Cory Silverberg
  21. Alice McKinley (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  22. It's Perfectly Normal  by Robie H. Harris
  23. Nineteen Minutes  by Jodi Picoult
  24. Scary Stories (series) by Alvin Schwartz
  25. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  26. A Brave New World  by Aldous Huxley
  27. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out  by Susan Kuklin
  28. Of Mice and Men  by John Steinbeck
  29. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  30. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  31. Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic  by Alison Bechdel
  32. It's a Book by Lane Smith
  33. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by by Mark Twain
  34. The Things They Carried  by Tim O'Brien
  35. What My Mother Doesn't Know  by Sonya Sones
  36. A Child Called "It"   by Dave Pelzer
  37. Bad Kitty (series) by Nick Bruel
  38. Crank by by Ellen Hopkins
  39. Nickel and Dimed  by Barbara Ehrenreich
  40. Persepolis  by Marjane Satrapi
  41. The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby  by Dav Pilkey
  42. This Day in June  by Gayle E. Pitman
  43. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
  44. A Bad Boy Can Be Good For A Girl  by Tanya Lee Stone
  45. Beloved  by Toni Morrison
  46. Goosebumps (series) by R.L. Stine
  47. In Our Mothers' House  by Patricia Polacco
  48. Lush by by Natasha Friend
  49. The Catcher in the Rye  by J. D. Salinger
  50. The Color Purple  by Alice Walker
  51. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time  by Mark Haddon
  52. The Holy Bible
  53. This Book is Gay  by Juno Dawson
  54. Eleanor & Park  by Rainbow Rowell
  55. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close  by Jonathan Safran Foer
  56. Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily von Ziegesar
  57. House of Night (series) by P.C. Cast
  58. My Mom's Having A Baby  by Dori Hillestad Butler
  59. Neonomicon  by Alan Moore
  60. The Dirty Cowboy  by Amy Timberlake
  61. The Giver  by Lois Lowry
  62. Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl  by Anne Frank
  63. Bless Me, Ultima  by Rudolfo Anaya
  64. Draw Me a Star  by Eric Carle
  65. Dreaming In Cuban  by Cristina Garcia
  66. Fade  by Lisa McMann
  67. The Family Book  by Todd Parr
  68. Feed  by M.T. Anderson
  69. Go the F--k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach
  70. Habibi  by Craig Thompson
  71. House of the Spirits  by Isabel Allende
  72. Jacob's New Dress  by Sarah Hoffman
  73. Lolita  by Vladimir Nabokov
  74. Monster  by Walter Dean Myers
  75. Nasreen’s Secret School  by Jeanette Winter
  76. Saga  by Brian K. Vaughan
  77. Stuck in the Middle  by Ariel Schrag
  78. The Kingdom of Little Wounds by Susann Cokal
  79. 1984  by George Orwell
  80. A Clockwork Orange  by Anthony Burgess
  81. Almost Perfect  by Brian Katcher
  82. Awakening  by Kate Chopin
  83. Burned  by Ellen Hopkins
  84. Ender's Game  by Orson Scott Card
  85. Fallen Angels  by Walter Dean Myers
  86. Glass  by Ellen Hopkins
  87. Heather Has Two Mommies  by Lesle´a Newman
  88. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings  by Maya Angelou
  89. Madeline and the Gypsies  by Ludwig Bemelmans
  90. My Princess Boy  by Cheryl Kilodavis
  91. Prince and Knight  by Daniel Haack
  92. Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology  by Amy Sonnie
  93. Skippyjon Jones (series) by Judith Schachner
  94. So Far from the Bamboo Grove  by Yoko Kawashima Watkins
  95. The Color of Earth (series) by Tong-hwa Kim
  96. The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter
  97. The Walking Dead (series) by Robert Kirkman
  98. Tricks  by Ellen Hopkins
  99. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding  by Sarah S Brannen
  100. 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.

city, commission, books, banned books