An open letter to Iowa’s governor and Legislature

A decal for the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature on the door of the Iowa City Public Library in Iowa City on Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Iowa is house to probably the most literary cities on earth. It’s right here the place the Iowa Writers’ Workshop produced among the best voices in American Literature: Frank Conroy, John Irving, Wallace Stegner, Raymond Carver, Jane Smiley, Rita Dove, Ayana Mathis, Flannery O’Connor, Ann Patchett, and so many others. Iowa can be house to modern writers producing works of fiction and non-fiction which are each daring in truth-telling and revolutionary in voice.

It’s due to this legacy and the dedication of Iowans to producing nice writing, that Iowa Metropolis was declared a UNESCO Metropolis of Literature in 2008. Usually referred to as the “Athens of the Midwest,” Iowa Metropolis has a singular set of influential literary establishments, which discover new methods to show and help writers. On the similar time, it has lengthy been, fairly merely, a spot for writers and for readers: a haven, a vacation spot, a proving floor, and a nursery. Iowa has a historical past and an identification through which its residents take monumental satisfaction, prizing a task in celebrating and honoring writers and good writing.

On Might 26, Iowa’s governor signed into legislation laws that runs counter to that legacy. Senate File 496 prohibits books with written and visible depictions of intercourse acts from faculty libraries. The laws additionally bans written supplies and instruction on “gender identification” and “sexual orientation.” This legislation was handed underneath the pretense of defending youngsters, and but what this legislation quantities to is a e book ban that limits youngsters’s freedom of expression and entry to information in regards to the world round them.

Legal guidelines that ban books run opposite to the historical past and legacy of Iowa as a spot of nice writing.

Removed from corrupting youngsters, books that train youngsters about identification and sexuality shield them. The World Well being Group notes that correct intercourse training protects youngsters from abuse and delivers constructive well being outcomes that equips them to make accountable well being decisions and respect others. This suggestion is backed up by three many years of in depth analysis that reveals unequivocally that intercourse training is important for the well being and well-being of youngsters.

Bans resembling Iowa’s restrict youngsters’s entry to high quality well being data and breed a tradition of worry for educators, establishments, and households, and hinders studying for youngsters. Moreover, e book bans suppress scholar’s capacity to see themselves in their very own life experiences and to construct empathy and understanding for others. At a time when 86 % of LGBTQ+ college students report being harassed or assaulted at college, this want for understanding and empathy is extra vital than ever.

Due to legal guidelines like Senate File 496 and so many others handed in states throughout the nation, e book bans have gotten state-sanctioned types of silencing. In keeping with the American Library Affiliation, there have been “1,269 calls for to censor library books and assets in 2022, the very best variety of tried e book bans since ALA started compiling knowledge about censorship in libraries greater than 20 years in the past. The unparalleled variety of reported e book challenges in 2022 practically doubles the 729 challenges reported in 2021.”

A part of being a UNESCO Metropolis of Literature entails the pursuit of freedom of expression. Have been Iowa Metropolis to use for this designation right this moment, the community would have trigger to query the dedication to those beliefs given the present legal guidelines of our state.

It’s ironic that Iowa, the house of The Discipline of Goals, a e book, film, and place cherished and cherished by Iowans, written by W.P. Kinsella whereas he was on the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, additionally has a storyline that offers with e book bans. In a single scene within the film, Annie Kinsella, the spouse of the primary character Ray Kinsella, stands up in a faculty board assembly to speak about how the e book being described as “smut” and “pornographic,” a novel by Terence Mann, is definitely a e book of affection and understanding.

Legal guidelines like Senate File 496 would ban traditional works of literature written in Iowa and are already having damaging impact on Iowans. In Vinton, two librarians resigned over e book bans. In Logan, a neighborhood creator’s e book about her household was challenged. And throughout the state, books are being challenged and faraway from libraries and lecture rooms. As the brand new faculty yr begins, these efforts at banning will solely enhance. Whereas people and fogeys or caregivers of younger youngsters can determine which books they learn, it’s tyranny to attempt to take away these books and narratives from a faculty or a library and to hunt to punish educators and librarians for offering entry to books.

Accordingly, the board of the UNESCO Metropolis of Literature together with a number of establishments throughout the state of Iowa strongly condemn any legislation that bans books and undermines the very coronary heart of democracy and freedom — the very founding ideas of what it means to be an American and an Iowan.

Lyz Lenz serves on the UNESCO Metropolis of Literature board. Additionally signing the column are Iowa Metropolis Mayor Bruce Teague, The Iowa Metropolis Public Library Trustees, The Iowa Metropolis Public Library Associates Basis, The Coralville Public Library, The North Liberty Library, Assume Iowa Metropolis, Iowa Small Library Affiliation govt board, Prairie Lights. One Iowa, The Tuesday Company, Iowa Metropolis Poetry the Iowa Library Affiliation and Hall Neighborhood Motion Community.

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