Bestselling authors Jodi Picoult and James Patterson have joined in on calling Florida’s book bans “troubling” and “truly egregious” after their own books — among dozens of others — were recently stripped from one county’s school libraries.
Patterson, whose “Maximum Ride” young adult novels were among a list of books recently axed in Martin County’s public schools, located north of West Palm Beach, called the censorship “arbitrary and borderline absurd” in a statement Monday.
“If you find this kind of mindless book banning troubling or confusing, send a polite note to” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, he told his nearly 141,000 Twitter followers.
Picoult, who has authored 20 books on the list, also lashed out in an op-ed Monday that accused DeSantis’ ban of wrongly challenging children’s ability to think for themselves, develop empathy, and “help kids see the world in a different way.”
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with a parent deciding a certain book is not right for her child. There is a colossal problem with a parent deciding that, therefore, no child should be allowed to read that book,” she stated.
The published list of banned works also includes material by Margaret Atwood, Judy Blume, and Nobel laureate Toni Morrison.
DeSantis insisted last week that only reading material that is “porn” or “violent” are targeted by his legislation. At a press conference, he called the book ban a “hoax,” though he flagged specific books that he said were removed from Florida public schools for including pornographic imagery.
Parents appear to be filing complaints for far less egregious reasons, however. The complaints include the use of the word “ass” in the novel “Mighty Jack and the Goblin King” and the depiction of a boy in a dress kissing another boy in a school play in the book “Drama,” according to The Washington Post. Both books were removed from Martin County’s school libraries. (See the full list of removed books below.)
All complaints are urged to be taken seriously, with Florida’s Department of Education advising schools to “err on the side of caution” when considering complaints, even if the material is neither pornographic nor prohibited under a state statute that targets material that’s deemed “harmful” to minors.
In Picoult’s case, she said that her books were targeted by a single woman who classified them as “adult romance” novels and, therefore, inappropriate for children.
“It is worth noting I do not write adult romance,” she said of this complaint. “The majority of the books that were targeted do not even have a kiss in them. What they do have, however, are issues like racism, abortion rights, gun control, gay rights, and other topics that encourage kids to think for themselves.”
In further punching back at the ban, she pointed out the limited amount of time under DeSantis’ law that school officials have to properly authenticate complaints brought by parents, which she said appears to be “exactly the point.”
“The books in Martin County were removed in a matter of weeks — far too quickly for all 92 to be read and assessed,“ she said.
A representative with the Martin County School District did not respond to a question about the amount of time provided for reviewing books or offer a comment on Picoult and Patterson’s objections when reached by HuffPost on Tuesday.
See the full list of removed books: