New lending library to keep Holocaust books banned in St. Louis, available

New+lending+library+to+keep+Holocaust+books+banned+in+St.+Louis%2C+available

Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

The Anti-Defamation League, Heartland, which provides services to Southern Illinois, Missouri, and Eastern Kansas is partnering with the Jewish Community Center of St. Louis in response to some St. Louis area schools banning several Holocaust books, including Art Spiegelman’s “Maus.”

The partnership will establish a new lending library with “Maus” and six other books about the Holocaust geared toward young readers. These books are among the hundreds of books that a handful of school districts in Missouri have reportedly removed from their shelves since the start of this school year.

The list of books pulled from shelves was published Wednesday by the literary free-expression advocacy group PEN America, along with a letter of protest signed by Spiegelman and other authors.

“This is what happens when we are operating in a climate of fear,” Jonathan Friedman, PEN America’s director of free expression and education programs, told reporters in a virtual press conference Wednesday sharing the findings.

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“Books help us better understand ourselves and the humanity we share with others,” said Jordan Kadosh, the regional director of ADL Heartland. “We join PEN America’s call to reverse the ban on books about the holocaust along with the hundreds of books removed from school libraries in Missouri.  The banning of “Maus” is a particularly shameful attempt to rob the next generation of the knowledge.

Efforts are already underway to secure the books for the lending library. Hannah Dinkel, director, literary arts at the J, is hopeful that people will be able to check out books by the start of 2023. If you’re interested in doing so, she asks that you call ahead at (314) 442-3294 or send an email.

Senate Bill 775

The books were pulled owing to an amendment to Missouri’s controversial Senate Bill 775. The bill largely deals with child trafficking and sexual abuse and establishes a criminal penalty for providing “explicit sexual material” to students. The law orders possible jail time for any educators found to be in violation.

The bill went into effect in August and has since caught the attention of many award-winning and best-selling authors and illustrators.

Art Spiegelman, Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Lois Lowry, Roxane Gay, Rupi Kaur, and Alison Bechdel are among the authors and illustrators who signed a PEN America open letter protesting alarming book bans in Missouri schools.

The authors and illustrators have all had books banned in Missouri or in other parts of the country in the past year.

Who has banned what? 

Spiegelman’s “Maus” was banned from two different school districts: Wentzville School District and Ritenour School District, both in the St. Louis area. The Wentzville ban is categorized by PEN America as “banned pending investigation,” while Ritenour’s is categorized as “banned from libraries.”

The vast majority of the affected books originated from one school district: Wentzville, a St. Louis exurb that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported had ordered its librarians to pull more than 200 books off its shelves at the start of the semester and place them under review.

Included in the Wentzville purge was “Maus” and several Holocaust history books published for young readers by ReferencePoint Press: “Holocaust Camps and Killing Centers,” “Holocaust Rescue and Liberation” and “Holocaust Resistance” by Craig Blohm; “Hitler’s Final Solution” by John Allen; and “LIfe in a Nazi Concentration Camp” by Don Nardo. A Time-Life history book on the Holocaust, “Apparatus of Death — The Third Reich” by Thomas Flaherty, was also banned.

Further books banned by Wentzville included “Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations” by Mira Jacob, which relays discussions with the author’s Jewish husband and biracial son about Jews and politics, and several books about photographers and artists with Jewish heritage, including André Kertész, Alfred Stieglitz, Man Ray, Irving Penn, Marc Chagall and Amedeo Modigliani.

In addition, Lindbergh Schools in St. Louis banned “A Dangerous Woman,” a graphic biography of Jewish socialist radical Emma Goldman by Jewish writer and artist Sharon Rudahl. And Kirkwood School District in a St. Louis suburb banned “Women,” a photography book by Jewish photographer Annie Leibovitz with text by famed Jewish writer Susan Sontag, as well as another book by Leibovitz; and “Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation,” an essay collection edited by LGBTQ Jewish writers Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman.