C2C Journal: Empty Shelves: The Noxious Politics Behind a Canadian School Board’s Massive Book Purge

When I was 10 years old I discovered Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel Little Women. From the very first line – “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents” – I was hooked. I loved the world of the March sisters, their sisterly rivalries and affections and their earnest efforts at amateur dramatics, even though I had no idea what Pilgrim’s Progress was or what it meant to be in the Slough of Despond. I just thought it was enchanting how Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy sang and sewed together and then went off to the Hummels’ cottage to donate their Christmas breakfast to a poor, hungry family.

Alcott introduced me to a world that was totally alien to my own. As a Jewish family, we didn’t celebrate Christmas. There was no copy of Pilgrim’s Progress in my house. I also didn’t have ancestors who fought in the Civil War as the March girls’ father did; my grandparents arrived in America in 1906. The world of Little Women captivated me precisely because it was so different from my own. Little did I know the “harm” it was causing.  

According to diversity bureaucrats in charge of libraries at Ontario’s second-largest school board, I should never have been allowed anywhere near my favourite book, because it says nothing about my own “lived experiences.” According to the board’s internal training documents, classic novels such as my beloved Little Women are rife with “explicit and implicit biases” that make them “inherently racist, classist, heteronormative, and/or sexist.” Rather than bringing joy and an appreciation for the wider world around them, these books are actually “causing harm” to young, impressionable readers. And the only proper place for this sort of toxic literature is the garbage dump.

Read the full story at the C2C Journal here.

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