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Texas County Considers Closing Its Libraries after Federal Judge Orders Banned Books Returned to Shelves

A federal judge ordered a rural Texas county to return 12 banned books back to library shelves, and now the county is considering closing its libraries altogether.

The list of banned books included “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson, “They Called Themselves the K.K.K.: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group” by Susan Campbell Bartoletti and “Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen” by Jazz Jennings.

Seven local residents sued county officials for removing the books, citing their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Federal Judge Robert Pitman ruled that the Llano County Library System had to reinstate the books into circulation at its three library branches.

A meeting agenda for the Commissioners Court of Llano County shows plans for a discussion to “continue or cease operations of the current physical Llano County library system pending further guidance from the Federal Courts.” The meeting is set for Thursday.

The agenda also lists discussions “regarding the continued employment and/or status of the Llano County Library System employees and the feasibility of the use of the library premises by the public.”

Leila Green Little, one of the residents suing the county, emailed supporters to attend the meeting and voice their concerns.

“We may not get another opportunity to save our library system and, more importantly, the public servants who work there.”

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According to the lawsuit, in 2021, county officials allegedly removed library board members and replaced them with new members who would review the content of all library books. Several books were removed from libraries, and access to an e-book service was revoked shortly after.

In his decision, Judge Pitman stated, “The First Amendment prohibits the removal of books from libraries based on either viewpoint or content discrimination” and gave the library system 24 hours to return the books to their shelves.

In a statement to CNN, Ellen Leonida, the attorney representing the seven residents, underscored the extreme measure the county was considering.

“It appears that the defendants would rather shut down the Library System entirely — depriving thousands of Llano County residents of access to books, learning resources, and meeting space — than make the banned books available to residents who want to read them.”

There is a growing movement for the censorship of books in grade schools, universities and public libraries. According to CNN, books that tell the stories of Black and LGBTQ people or by authors in those communities were among the ten most challenged titles in 2021. The trend continued the following year.

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The American Library Association reported that, in the two decades since it began tracking book censorship, the number of attempts to ban books had reached an all-time high in 2022 at 1,269 total demands.

“The unparalleled number of reported book challenges in 2022 nearly doubles the 729 challenges reported in 2021. A record 2,571 unique titles were targeted for censorship, a 38% increase from the 1,858 unique titles targeted for censorship in 2021. Of those titles, the vast majority were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color. Of the reported book challenges, 58% targeted books and materials in school libraries, classroom libraries or school curricula; 41% of book challenges targeted materials in public libraries.”

In a press release, Deborah Caldwelll-Stone, director of ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, stated, “Overwhelmingly, we’re seeing these challenges come from organized censorship groups that target local library board meetings to demand removal of a long list of books they share on social media.”

“Their aim is to suppress the voices of those traditionally excluded from our nation’s conversations, such as people in the LGBTQIA+ community or people of color. Each attempt to ban a book by one of these groups represents a direct attack on every person’s constitutionally protected right to freely choose what books to read and what ideas to explore. The choice of what to read must be left to the reader or, in the case of children, to parents. That choice does not belong to self-appointed book police.”

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School Book Bans Are Rising at an Unprecedented Rate

According to a report by PEN America, 50 conservative advocacy groups moved to ban more than 1648 books in 32 states within the last school year. The report speaks to a growing push for censorship in public schools nationwide.

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School’s Find National Test Scores Take A Plunge As A Result Of The Pandemic

Due to the lack of in classroom learning and having to switch to online teaching, most elementary schools are finding that because of the pandemic that math and reading scores have plummeted to its lowest level in over a decade.

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Some Of The Most Anticipated Book Releases For Winter 2021

With news of multiple Covid-19 vaccines being distributed, it’s only a matter of time before life begins to return to a sense of normalcy. In the meantime, it’s up to us to continue to stay home and follow all health and safety procedures until we can get vaccinated. Now that it’s winter, one of the best ways to pass the time while you wait out the rest of the pandemic this season is reading! This month a ton of new reads have been released for the new year, here are some of the titles being talked about already:

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King Of The Rising By Kacen Callender: This is the sequel to Callender’s popular novel Queen Of The Conquered, and follows former slave Loren Jannik as she leads a newly created resistance group. Together they attempt to take back their land from the Fjern; an invading group of individuals enslaving all of the island’s residents. This is the second book in Callender’s “Island of Blood and Storm” series. 

The Chicken Sisters By KJ Dell’Antonia: In Dell’Antonia’s debut novel, 35-year-old widow Amanda Moore stuns her small Kansas town by marrying Frank Pogociello. For context, Amanda has spent her whole life working for her mom at Chicken Mimi’s, but now that she married Frank, she has to start working at Chicken Frannies, which is his family’s chicken restaurant. It just so happens that the two families are also sworn enemies and each other’s biggest rivals. 

Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America By Ijeoma Oluo: Popularized for her novel So You Want to Talk About Race, Oluo is back with her newest book that aims to examine how privileged white men in western culture has created a dangerous environment for everyone else living in it with them. 

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The Mermaid From Jeju By Sumi Hahn: This historical fiction novel follows teenage Junja, a diver whose mother dies when they both switch places so that Junja can travel into the mountains on an important trading mission. Without her mother, and separated from the boy she loves, Junja must use all of her strength to complete this journey. 

Layla By Colleen Hoover: When Leeds girlfriend Layla is brutally attacked by his ex, he finds it difficult to save the love he once had for her as she navigates her post-traumatic stress. In order to bring back their spark, Leeds books a Bed and Breakfast getaway for them both, but when another woman begins to become the object of his affection….well, you’ll just have to read to find out.

This Is How We Fly By Anna Meriano: 17-year-old Ellen is grounded for her last summer before college, greatly derailing all of her final summer plans with her two best friends. Desperate to leave the house, Ellen joins the local Quidditch league, and as she becomes more and more involved with the game, her old friends become figures of the past. 

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie By Marie Benedict: After famous murder-mystery author Agatha Christie returns home after being missing for 11 days, she claims to have no memory of what occurred during her absence. The novel then begins to spiral down a rabbit hole of mystery and strangeness as Mrs. Christie’s journey begins to unravel. 

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‘All Kids Deserve A Proper Education’: How Combating Educational Inequality Starts At Home | Harmel Codi

In a country where not every child is given the same educational opportunities, Harmel Codi aims to promote reading and learning for at-risk children.

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Underrated Stephen King Novels To Scare You This Halloween 

Stephen King is known as one of the kings of the horror genre. His countless novels and movie adaptations have become iconic for thriller/scary movie/book lovers everywhere. This spooky season, as the weather begins to cool and the coronavirus pandemic continues to force us to remain indoors, curl up next to the fire with one of these iconic novels by King, and make sure to keep a light on so you don’t get too scared. 

Christine: This 1983 novel follows a haunted candy apple red 1958 Plymouth Fury that has a mind of its own. Not only can this car heal itself from damage, but it also has a deep love of doo-wop music and revenge. Christine discusses themes of toxic masculinity and obsession during a time where high school hierarchies ruled the world and is one of King’s most popular novels. 

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11.23.63: This time travel narrative follows school teacher Jake Epping as he attempts to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. However, the portal he uses to time travel only will drop him at the same spot in history in 1958; five years before Kennedy was shot. Jake begins to learn about all the intricacies of the time-travel process as he makes his way to the watershed moment in American history. 

Needful Things: This is one of King’s worst reviewed novels, however, his fans view it as a story that was ahead of its time. The 1991 novel takes place in the community of Castle Rock as it slowly and violently begins to turn against itself. As the citizens begin to turn into creatures that exploit their low-grade rivalries and resentments towards one another, residents begin to realize that they really don’t know anything about their neighbors. 

The Long Walk: This 1979 novel takes place in a dystopian future in which society’s Super Bowl has turned into a sadistic race in which 100 men compete in a nonstop walking contest. The first prize winner will never want anything again, and the second prize winner gets killed. Walkers are given three warnings for slowing down and then are executed by the military. The entire walk is a last man standing type competition. 

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Lisey’s Story: This novel is cited to be King’s favorite, which is a little ironic considering it’s one of his lesser known works. This is likely because the type of thrills in this novel are more delicate and subtle as opposed to the in your face horrors he’s more known for. The title character of this story is the widow of a Pulitzer Prize winning author who continues to think of his wife Tabitha in his everyday life. She follows him as he deals with a crazed stalker and the confusing elements of alternate dimensions.

The Dead Zone: Johnny Smith is a young man who wakes up from a coma one day with the ability to read people’s past, present and futures through touch. He deals with a serial killer, devastating accident and the heartbreak of a lost love who moved on without him easily. Eventually, Smith finds that his powers are necessary for saving the world after he shakes a powerful politician’s hand and sees a devastating nuclear war in the future. 

The Stand: This novel is not for the faint of heart especially in 2020. Originally published in 1978, this story explores what rises within the survivors of a world-killing pandemic. After all of society vanishes, a select few are left surviving in a world with no laws, order, or authority. 

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Rhianna Pratchett Thrilled To Continue Father’s Legacy As Fantasy Fiction Author

Rhianna Pratchett grew up watching her father create a mythical world that fans fell in love with through his iconic Discworld comic book series. Now, five years after Terry Pratchett’s death, Rhianna decided to try her hand at fantasy fiction writing.

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JK Rowling’s New Book Faces Accusations Of Transphobia 

JK Rowling’s under fire this week after it was revealed that the main character in her new novel, Troubled Blood, is a male serial killer named Dennis Creed who dresses up in a woman’s coat and wig to get away with entering “female spaces” so he can murder them. The characterization has faced accusations of transphobia due to the fact that Rowling herself has made questionable comments in the past regarding transgender people’s right to enter certain gendered spaces based on how they personally identify. 

Rowling defended her novel’s plot by claiming that the story line is based on two real-life murders. The novel was released this week and after a review from Telegraph, the internet exploded with accusations of transphobia, ignorance, and general disregard for the community Rowling has been adamantly debating with for months. 

In the book, Creed lures his victims into his van by wearing women’s clothing, however, the novel never describes him as trans or as a cross-dresser, so the lines have been blurred for some reviewers. As previously mentioned Rowling also revealed this week that Creed was “loosely based on real-life killers Jerry Brudos and Russell Williams.” 

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Brudos killed four women in Oregon in the 1960’s and was known for stealing female underwear from his neighbours as a child; a characteristic Rowling also gave to Creed. According to past reports from Brudos’ killings, there was evidence of a “large man dressed in women’s clothing in a garage” where Brudos would later kidnap one of his victims. Williams murdered two women and was sentenced to life in prison ten years ago. He also was known for stealing female undergarments.  

According to Rowling, trans issues aren’t even part of the books plotline, and instead the main themes regard personal journeys and struggles with feminist ideals. 

“Change, loss and absence are the biggest themes of the book, but it also explores the changing face of feminism and ideals and stereotypes of femininity … through the cast of characters.”

The novel follows private detectives Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott as they investigate the case of Margot Bamborough, who vanished 10 years prior. Bamborough is described as a feminist who was approaching her 30s, in the midst of a divorce and navigating motherhood. 

“It’s my favorite of the series by far and I think the length is necessary to do the story justice.”

This is the fifth installment in the Strike series and runs just over 900 pages long. According to Rowling, she always knew the book would be lengthy and because the investigation is meant to take place over the course of one year, she wanted to make sure the story was developed enough to read as such. 

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Books To Motivate And Inspire You During Quarantine 

2020 has definitely been one of the most difficult and unpredictable years for all of us. Now that we’re all used to being home and are continuing to wait out the rest of this pandemic until some sort of vaccine is released, many are continuing to figure out ways of occupying their time. Many have taken up reading more now that they actually have the time to do so. Here’s a list of leadership/motivational novels that are regarded as being extremely effective in helping readers remain more positive during these uncertain times:

Friday Forward By Robert Glazer: Bestselling author Robert Glazer wrote this book for industry and company leaders who need the motivation to keep not only their team, but themselves, going during difficult times. The book is a curated collection of over 50 stories that Glazer has experienced or witnessed himself. These stories are meant to inspire readers and help them get through specific situations that can arise in any company culture. 

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Daring Greatly By Brene Brown: This novel focuses on the art of vulnerability in the workplace. Throughout 2020, we’ve all had to make occupational adjustments, and have discovered newfound skills and techniques for getting through our day-to-day responsibilities. Brown wanted to take all of those new techniques, and share them with readers so they can learn from others and improve their own personal work habits. 

Girl Decoded By Rana el-Kaliouby: el-Kaliouby is a technology entrepreneur by day, and in this memoir she shares her transformative experience of going from shy, soft-spoken child growing up in Egypt, to one of the world’s biggest authorities on human interaction with artificial intelligence. Her book is meant to present a positive future for human beings and technology, and show that you can start from anywhere and make it as big in the world as you want. 

The Garden By Jon Gordon: Gordon is a bestselling author, and in his most recent book he drew inspiration from his experiences working with top CEOs, athletes, and organizations throughout the world, and shared those experiences so that readers can see how normal all of these major figureheads actually are. The purpose of this novel is much like Girl Decoded in the sense that it’s meant to leave the reader with an overall feeling of inspiration and positivity in terms of their future. 

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Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life and Maybe The World By William McRaven: This novel outlines lessons that were in a speech given by Admiral William McRaven. In this specific speech, McRaven shared the 10 principles he learned during his Navy Seal training that helped him overcome various challenges not just in his career, but in his own personal life. The speech itself went viral and gained over 10 million views shortly after being posted online. 

The Four Agreements By Don Miguel Ruiz: This novel is subtitled “a practical guide to personal freedom,” and it’s meant to do exactly that. In this book Ruiz attempts to discuss the many common “mental roadblocks” that all humans experience that prevent us from living in the moment and being happy. The novel gives advice on how to properly self-reflect on your actions without punishing ourselves for past mistakes or wrongdoings. 

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance By Angela Duckworth: Angela Duckworth is a psychologist who wrote this novel as a means of telling her readers that if they want to be successful, they need to embrace their individual grit. This “grit” is made up of a “unique blend of passion and persistence,” and when used right, it can lead us to amazing things in our lives and career.

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Great Quarantine Reads You Likely Haven’t Heard Of Before

Since we all have an indefinite amount of time left in our homes, it’s important to find ways to keep our mind, bodies, and spirits active. Reading is one of the best leisure activities one could do in the middle of a pandemic as it helps us use our brain muscles, stimulates the imagination, and emotionally separates us from the harsh reality that is 2020. So here are some book titles that you may have never heard of before that you can pick up to enjoy for yourself:

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Such A Fun Age By Kiley Reid: In this debut novel from Reid, the reader is forced to face the realities of racism in America, both subtle and overt. After a family crisis, white blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her black babysitter, Emira Tucker, to take her toddler to the local market as a distraction. When at the market, Tucker is accused of kidnapping the child she’s been hired numerous times to babysit, the situation that continues to unfold after exposes the selfish realities of what it actually means to be an ally for the black community. 

Untamed By Glennon Doyle: If you’re more of a memoir reader, you’ll love Doyle’s third novel Untamed where she recounts what it was like to reflect on her metamorphosis as a full-grown woman. Throughout the novel she details how she was able to discover herself through independence after being married and a mother for so many years. She discusses ending her marriage, falling in love with a woman unexpectedly, and then going on to marry that woman and build a whole new life with her.

We Ride Upon Sticks By Quan Barry: This fiction novel is an amazing and easy read for those who love adventure with a hefty mix of young adult drama. The book follows a girls field hockey team in Danvers, Massachusetts; the site of the original Salem Witch Trials. Taking place in 1989 the girls are on a major winning streak which they soon discover may be a result of their town’s spooky history. The book is filled with classic 80’s pop culture references and witchcraft, how could you go wrong? 

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The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires By Grady Hendrix: In this feminist horror novel Patricia Campbell joins a neighborhood book club to keep herself entertained and away from her mundane nuclear life at home. This 90’s-set thriller isn’t your average tale of mom best friends reading a book and drinking wine while discovering something much deeper about themselves…it also has vampires and a bunch of cool fight scenes. 

All Adults Here By Emma Straub: If your family has been driving you a little crazy after 4+ months of quarantining together this book may be the one for you. Straub writes a layered love story that also celebrates what it is to live in a modern multigenerational family. The Strick family in the novel has a lot of expectations brought on by matriarch Astrid, who will need to reexamine past traditional values and new modern ways of thinking to keep her family together. 

The Island of Sea Women: By Lisa See: Best friends Mi-ja and Young-sook are best friends who are about to begin their long careers on an all-female diving collective in an island off Korea. The book not only follows the two on their journey, but discusses decades of Korean history in relation to female sports and diving, while also following the personal coming of age stories of the two.