Far-right extremist group Moms for Liberty has made a name for itself with organized attacks on sex education and LGBTQ-affirming curricula in public schools. But now they seem to be venturing into a new territory of hate and discrimination. Lead organizers with Moms for Liberty have tried to ban Scholastic book fairs, appeared on antisemitic talk shows, and quoted Hitler in their newsletter. It’s no surprise the group has earned a reputation as an extremist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center and has been placed on their Hate Watch.
Jennifer Pippin, the chair of a Florida chapter of Moms for Liberty, succeeded in getting Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation banned from the public high school’s library. Apparently, this decision was reached with the support of the District Objection Committee which Pippen helped form. Nationwide, Moms for Liberty has gained a reputation for book banning and threatening librarians. Though they claim no connection to Moms for Liberty, the site BookLooks.org provides fodder for the organization’s mission of excluding numerous books from library circulation. Noticeably absent from the “who we are” section of the website are the actual names of the people behind these book critiques. They are not librarians, educators, or scholars, just “concerned parents” devoting time to producing pages and pages of “content warnings” on new books and classics alike.
The graphic novel version of Anne Frank’s diary has caused controversy across the country for its “explicit” moments. A middle school teacher in Texas was fired for assigning the book to her eighth grde class. Pippins successfully lobbied to have the book banned for being sexually explicit and inappropriate. Her charges hinged on three moments in the story, one in which Anne Frank expresses a desire to kiss her female friend, another where she suggests she and a friend show one another their breasts, and one in which she notices the beauty of the nude female body.
Some educators have pushed back on the categorization of any of these scenes as sexually explicit. Instead of viewing the 13-year-old hiding out from the Nazis with her family as somehow being titillated by deviant ideas, others have pointed out that these passages present Anne as a relatable teen noticing her developing body and sexuality.
As disturbing as it is, the Anne Frank book banning is another act that speaks to an antisemitic culture within Moms of Liberty. The same woman who had Anne Frank’s diary banned from the library also appeared on TruNews, an antisemitic livestream. TruNews host Rick Wiles uses his platform to advance racist, antisemitic, and anti science narratives. Pippin, the book banner, has since refused to apologize for speaking on his show. The group did, however, apologize for quoting Hitler in their newsletter. These actions reveal a dangerous trend of aligning not just with the far right but also with Nazism.
According to the American Library Association (ALA), book bans are on the rise in the U.S. There has been a 20% increase since last year. Texas and Florida have the most banned books in the nation, with 438 and 357 banned books respectively. As scholars note, the term “book banning” fails to capture what happens when a book is challenged. It may be redacted (removing words or images), relocated to another section of the library, restricted with parental permission required for reading, or finally, removed from circulation.
Ironically, book banning is addressed in Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation. As Anne describes a Germany that is becoming increasingly more hostile and frightening, she references the Nazis burning books written by Jews and books that celebrate Jewish culture.
After Nazis discovered her family in hiding, Anne Frank and her older sister Margot where transported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where they died. Anne’s father, Otto, survived the war. He discovered his daughter’s diary and decided to publish it to share their family’s experience with history and the world.
(featured image: Pantheon)
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