School board politics in Fredericksburg, Virginia bring to mind passages from the late author Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, a dystopian novel about a society where books are outlawed and "firemen" burn any found.
Two members on the Spotsylvania County School Board have proposed burning books containing "sexually explicit" material the board this week unanimously voted to ban from high school libraries.
The board voted 6–0 to order the removal and plans to refine how material is determined to be "objectionable," but Courtland representative Rabih Abuismail and Livingston representative Kirk Twigg went further.
In remarks to The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, Abuismail said "we should throw those books in a fire." His colleague said he wants to "see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff."
You can hear their remarks in the video below.
The controversy erupted after the parents of a Riverbend student objected to the inclusion of "LGBTQIA" fiction that was made available upon accessing the library app.
The particular book that drew the ire of the student's mother was 33 Snowfish, a 2003 novel by novelist Adam Rapp about three homeless teenagers contending with trauma from sexual abuse, prostitution, and drug addiction.
Abuismail accused division Superintendent Scott Baker of not further vetting school library holdings before parents voiced objections.
33 Snowfish, which was listed as one of the American Library Association's Best Books for Young Adults in 2004, is recommended for ages 15 and up.
Baker said he trusts school librarians and that it did not cross his mind to conduct an audit of school library holdings:
"I would not have thought to do an audit because I have great faith and trust in our librarians. If we find something being missed in a process, then we do refine the process."
"There was no ill intent here. We don't have all the information."
Twigg, meanwhile, did not elaborate after stating that there is "some bad, evil-related material that we have to be careful of and look at."
The news soon attracted online attention from critics who've criticized the school board and railed against censorship.
A pushback against literature deemed subversive has dominated the culture wars as of late, becoming a flashpoint among the far-right amid a campaign by Republicans to energize conservative voters, particularly in school board elections.
Last month, ahead of Republican Glenn Youngkin's victory in Virginia's gubernatorial election, his opponent, former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe accused Youngkin of using a "racist dog whistle" when a woman who advocated to ban Toni Morrison's book Beloved from schools appeared in an ad Youngkin released.
Beloved, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988, is the story of a woman haunted by the spirit of the daughter she murdered to spare her from being subjected to the horrors of slavery.
Laura Murphy, the mother who campaigned to get Beloved banned from Virginia schools, once claimed that reading the book gave her then 17-year-old son night terrors.
Speaking in Youngkin's ad, Murphy recalls that her heart "sunk" when she saw her son's reading material, referring to it as "some of the most explicit material you can imagine."