About those ‘banned’ books, Governor

Gov. Tim Walz recently made headlines for staging a Little Free Library outside his office at the State Capitol, filling it with books that he claims are banned in Florida, including Lord of the Flies, Of Mice and Men, and The Handmaid’s Tale, reported the Star Tribune. This is Walz’s latest jab at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who my colleague John Phelan details out would beat Walz in a head-to-head.

“Let’s be very clear,” Walz said. “These books are banned in the state of Florida. That’s where freedom goes to die.” Jeremy Redfern, deputy press secretary for Gov. DeSantis, recently told The Associated Press that there is no banned book list at the state level.

I looked up the literary classics Walz mentions on the American Library Association’s (ALA) webpage for “Banned & Challenged Classics,” and made the following discoveries.

  • Lord of the Flies is not listed by the ALA as being banned in Florida or challenged in any Florida schools. Florida’s English Language Arts standards include Lord of the Flies in its sample list of texts for educators to use.
  • Of Mice and Men was removed from a high school library in Florida but was later returned. This occurred in 1991. The book was challenged in the Duval County public school libraries in 1992, not banned, and “removed, restored, restricted, and eventually retained” at the Bay County school in Panama City in 1997. According to the ALA, the 1997 removal request came from a citizen group called the 100 Black United, Inc.

    Florida’s English Language Arts standards include Of Mice and Men in its sample list of texts for educators to use.
  • The Handmaid’s Tale is not listed by the ALA as banned in Florida. A quick search of a handful of high school libraries in the state showed it available.

In the Star Tribune article, Gov. Walz asserted that his selections would be kept “fully in the fiction section of Minnesota.” Let’s not forget to mention the obscene and sexually explicit books that are also available in Minnesota school libraries.