Kansas School Goes Full Gilead By Removing 'The Handmaid's Tale' And 28 Other Titles

by Madison Vanderberg
Billion Photos/Shutterstock

Now a Kansas school district is pulling books from its shelves that center on marginalized voices

The Goddard school district in Kansas has removed more than two dozen books from circulation in the district’s school libraries, and if you’re saying to yourself that banning books is usually a big red flag in dystopian movies and novels, you would not be alone. Even more ironic, one of the targeted books includes The Handmaid’s Tale, a book about a dystopian society that began to crumble after the government banned certain books.

The Kansas school district pulled the 29 books after a parent complained about The Hate U Give, a novel about the aftermath of a police officer killing a Black teenager. The parent then submitted a list of books he also questioned and district officials agreed to halt checkouts of the books from the library while they “investigate” the books.

The books in question include many prize-winning books relating to race, gender, or sexuality, and the schools claim that the information in the books may be dangerous.

The facts are that the books aren’t dangerous, but rather, that these books may challenge perspectives held by sexists, racists, and homophobes — and perhaps it is they who are scared that their children might be exposed to ideas in the books that lead them to a more progressive and equitable world. If you are scared of these books, it says an awful lot about you than it says about the books.

Some of the books on the list include, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, and Fences, a play by August Wilson that won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1987.

Julie Cannizzo, assistant superintendent for academic affairs in Goddard says the district is assembling a committee to “rate the content of the books on the list…It was just brought to our attention that that list of books may have content that’s unsuitable for children.”

Pulling the books from the shelves goes directly against the school district’s explicit policy on controversial books, which states, “Challenged materials shall not be removed from use during the review period.”

Local NBC affiliate in Kansas has a list of the 29 books under review here.

Frighteningly, this isn’t just happening in Kansas, but in other conservative states, too.

Conservatives are pushing for audits of books by — let’s be real — mostly LGBTQ and Black authors, in what is being called a “war on books.” Though no books in any schools have been officially banned — yet — books like the aforementioned in Kansas are being “investigated” in many schools districts and this precedent is dangerous, especially since the books are not available to students during the investigation.

Just last month, the The Texas Tribune reported that state Representative Krause, in his role as chair of the House Committee on General Investigating, notified the Texas Education Agency that he is “initiating an inquiry into Texas school district content” and sent them a 16-page list of about 850 book titles and asked the districts if they have any of these books. If they do, the books must be “investigated.”

If any schools do move to ban these stellar, award winning books, we should be more than a little worried. I hope this is only conservative pearl clutching and not an all-out assault on knowledge, because like I mentioned in the Handmaid’s Tale, books are usually the first thing to go in any dystopian novel about the collapse of civilization.