The Central Bucks School District has been a hotbed of controversy for the last couple of years, in part because conservative administrators, members of its board, and people from the community keep trying to ban an increasing number of books they find objectionable.

Last year, administrators put forward five books to be reviewed for possible banning, four of which dealt with LGBT themes or included LGBT characters. As of now, the list has grown to 65 books of an allegedly “objectionable” nature to be reviewed for possible banning.

The question then arises: how do people find out about all these books they must protect their children from? Turns out they can thank Moms for Liberty (M4L), a conservative group based in Florida with chapters in almost every state (including Pennsylvania) whose primary goal is to ban books with LGBT and racial content from schools.

All of Central Bucks’ 65 allegedly “objectionable” books appear on BookLooks, a website established last year by Emily Maikisch, a prominent member of M4L’s national leadership in Florida. BookLooks focuses on listing school library books and rating them according to their level of “objectionable” and “sexual” content.

BookLooks maintains an extensive (and growing) list of allegedly objectionable books that are in or could be included in school libraries. These books are rated 0 to 5 based on their level of perceived objectionability — the higher the rating, the more the site managers feel that children must be “protected” from it.

These ratings, and the descriptions provided for each book that can be copied and pasted, makes it easy for M4L supporters to find books to raise objections about to school administrators or boards. Unsurprisingly, the books that raise conservatives’ ire the most deal with such subjects as gender, racial discrimination, LGBTQ pride, drag, the Black Lives Matter movement and the like.

Even a cursory examination of of the authors listed by BookLooks as objectionable and worthy of banning includes some of the brightest luminaries of modern letters: Toni Morrison, Tennessee Williams, Margaret Atwood, Vladimir Nabokov, Zora Neale Hurston, Kurt Vonnegut, Langston Hughes and Harper Lee, among many others. What is surprising is that J.D. Salinger, Mark Twain and Shakespeare haven’t made the list — yet.

The mission statement for BookLooks goes to great pains to position itself as having no connection to Moms For Liberty, but a closer look shows the opposite to be true.

The Moms organization was founded a little over two years ago and is headquartered in Brevard County, Florida. In short order they established a list site as a resource to aid in their book banning agenda in Brevard County. BookLooks’ list is essentially a clone of Moms’ local site, with the only difference appearing to be the former’s positioning as a national resource. Add to that the site is operated by members of Moms’ leadership, and that both Moms and BookLooks is supported by the same MAGA Republican funders — the conclusion is obvious.

For many of the higher-rated targeted books, the site provides excerpts of the most objectionable or inflammatory sections, for conservative parents and others who don’t want to be bothered by a nettlesome thing called “context.” These excerpts are often read by outraged parents at school board meetings to bolster their argument to ban the targeted book or books. For example, BookLooks’ page on Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” has contextless lines such as “They do not drink, smoke , or swear, and they still call sex “nookey””, and “No better than whites for meanness.”

BookLooks has been the model for other book rating sites that have been proliferating nationally, including, most prominently, RatedBooks, which is aligned with the Utah-based book challenge group LaVerna in the Library. LaVerna in the Library (also known as Mary in the Library) has groups scattered throughout the country at the state level.

Meanwhile, the playbook being acted out with Central Bucks SD is poised to be replicated elsewhere in Pennsylvania, with book banners armed with their BookLooks lists.

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