Florida district removes Jewish and Holocaust books from classrooms

A global bestseller by a Jewish Holocaust survivor; a novel by a beloved and politically conservative Jewish American writer; a memoir of growing up mixed-race and Jewish; and a contemporary novel about a high-achieving Jewish family are among the nearly 700 books removed from classroom libraries this year by a Florida school district in fear of violating state laws on sexual content in schools.

The recent expulsion of books from Orange County Public Schools in Orlando is the latest result of a conservative drive across the country — and strongest in Florida — to cleanse public and school libraries of literature considered unpleasant. While the vast majority of such disputed and banned publications are about race, gender, or sexual orientation, numerous Jewish novels have already been caught in the dragnet.

The Orange County case is notable for the sheer quantity of books removed — 699, including some duplicates, according to records released by the district — as well as the unusually significant number of Holocaust and Jewish identity books included among them. They were as follows:

Florida district removes Jewish and Holocaust books from classrooms

“Suite Française,” by Irène Némirovsky, a Ukrainian-French Jewish novelist who wrote her work in secret during the German occupation before dying in Auschwitz.

– “Herzog,” a semi-autobiographical novel by Jewish writer Saul Bellow, an outspoken cultural conservative whose son Adam Bellow is a publisher of right-wing Jewish books. “Black, White, and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self,” by Rebecca Walker, a feminist theorist and the daughter of author Alice Walker, whose own antisemitic comments and writings have been scrutinized in the past.

Myra Goldberg’s “Bee Season,” a novel about a high-achieving family of Jewish scholars and cantors.

Erik Larson’s factual history book “The Splendid and the Vile,” describes Winston Churchill’s decision to battle Hitler’s soldiers during World War II.

Lillian Hellman’s complete plays, a Jewish writer and left-wing activist accused of Communist activities.

“The Storyteller,” a Holocaust-themed novel by bestselling novelist Jodi Picoult.

Bernhard Schlink’s “The Reader,” a German novel on the Holocaust’s aftermath.

William Styron’s “Sophie’s Choice,” a best-selling novel on the Holocaust’s aftermath.

– “The Freedom Writers Diary,” a nonfiction collection of diaries from numerous high school students inspired by their teacher’s efforts to educate them about the Holocaust and Anne Frank.

Florida district removes Jewish and Holocaust books from classrooms

“Books are removed from classrooms with deference to House Bill 1069,” district spokesperson David Ocasio told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, referring to a Florida law adopted this year that severely limits instruction and school materials about human sexuality.

Although no specific reasons were offered for each book’s removal, Ocasio stated that all of the books had been labeled as “not approved for any grade level.” He also stated that each book will be subjected to a secondary review to decide if it will be restricted to specific grade levels or “weeded from the collection” entirely.

Some of the books on Orange County’s list have previously been investigated for removal from other districts. After a member of the right-wing activist group Moms For Liberty successfully lobbied for its removal from another Florida school district earlier this year, “The Storyteller” received extensive press attention. “Sophie’s Choice” was recently banned from a third Florida school district at the request of a Jewish parent; both parents stated that their objections were based on sexual material.

Other novels on the list that appear to be Jewish, such as “The Reader” and Philip Roth’s “Portnoy’s Complaint,” contain explicit sexual themes. Non-Jewish World War II novels “Slaughterhouse-Five” and “Catch-22” were also taken off the shelves.

Among the hundreds of other books flagged for removal in the district were controversial titles such as “Gender Queer” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” as well as literary classics such as Milton’s “Paradise Lost” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” and children’s fare such as a book based on Disney’s “The Incredibles.” Some goods were listed multiple times.

In order to comply with state law, other schools in Florida have pulled an illustrated adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary this year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.