Culture

All 200+ Books Banned in Florida and What Miami Booksellers Have to Say About It

Bookleggers mobile library
Bookleggers mobile library Photo by Monica McGivern
Nathaniel Sandler is surrounded by banned books at the Wynwood headquarters of Bookleggers Library. It's not intentional, but that's what happens when you run a nonprofit mobile library in a state that has so far banned more than 200 books in various school districts since July of 2021. (The complete list is included at the end of this story.)

"Wow, look at this — I can tell you that Sapphire is right here," Sandler tells New Times as he cross-references book titles on his shelves with the banned-book list shared by PEN America, a nonprofit that advocates for literary free expression. "Handmaid's Tale — we have a copy of it right now. Of Mice and Men is actually within arm's reach."

According to PEN America, which tracks book-banning incidents, Florida tallied the third-highest number of school book banning incidents in the nation, trailing only Texas and Pennsylvania. While books have been banned in America since the days of the Mayflower, there has been a recent surge as an unprecedented number of parents, activists, and elected officials request scores of books to be banned from classrooms and libraries.

In Florida, the majority of banned books touch on race (How to Be an Antiracist by Ibrahim Kendi, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison), sexuality (Forever by Judy Blume, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley), and sexual orientation and gender identity (Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan, Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe). This comes as the Republican-led Florida legislature has passed laws such as the Stop WOKE Act (HB 7), which prohibits teaching Critical Race Theory in schools, and the so-called Don't Say Gay bill, which bans instruction involving gender and sexual orientation for many young students.

Though book-banning incidents have been recorded in seven Florida school districts, none have been documented in South Florida's school districts. The Miami-Dade and Broward County public school districts could not immediately answer New Times' emailed questions asking whether they’ve received any book ban requests. But that hasn't stopped Miami's local bookstore owners from taking note of the trend and speaking out against the bans.

"It's extremely disturbing. But it's no surprise, given where our politics are today, that book banning and these cultural divisive issues will be exploited in order to make a political statement or to gain political advantage," Books & Books owner Mitchell Kaplan tells New Times. "The language is vague in some of these bills. Basically, it leaves educators in the dark."
There's a hand-painted mural at Books & Books' Coral Gables store that reads, "CENSORSHIP LEAVES US IN THE DARK," and lists dozens of books that have been banned throughout the years, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Lord of the Rings, Ulysses, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Skimming PEN America's list of banned books, Kaplan notes that many "wonderful" stories are being banned. He is disheartened that a group of people want to prevent students from not just reading them, but experiencing their overarching messages about acceptance, diversity, inclusivity, and love.

But Kaplan notes that censorship can sometimes backfire.

Whenever a book is banned and appears on the news, Kaplan immediately notices a larger demand for that novel at his stores. For example, after a Tennessee school board voted in January to ban the Holocaust novel Maus from its classrooms, Kaplan says, sales for the book went "through the roof."

Sandler, whose used bookstore offers visitors one free book per visit, concurs that book bans can sometimes achieve the opposite of their intended effect: Instead of deterring children from a specific book, the bans could inevitably make students curious and seek it out — a phenomenon known as the "Streisand effect." (In 2003, Barbra Stresiand tried to sue an aerial photographer documenting coastal erosion for publishing images of her Malibu home. The photo had only been accessed six times at the time of the lawsuit, but after the media picked up the story, the image received more than a million views.)

"Ron DeSantis isn't going to be able to eradicate all material that has Black people, Jewish people, gay people, trans people — he just won't be able to do that," Sandler says. "But what he can do is tell you that he is moving in that direction. And to me, that's a display of power."

Bookleggers, which bills itself as "a no-kill shelter for books," relies on book donations, and many of the books on Sandler's shelves were headed to the dumpster. That's why, he says, patrons will always find banned books at his library, and he relishes giving forsaken or unwanted stories a second chance.

"Whatever Ron DeSantis and his ilk are hoping to do by banning books," Sandler declares, "we, of course, have a promise to the community that those books will be accessible here for as long as the organization is here."

Essentially, a government or school district or parent can't simply eradicate a concept in a certain book by banning it — or, as Sandler likes to say, quoting the famous phrase from Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, "manuscripts don't burn."

Here, listed in alphabetical order by county and by author, are all the books banned in Florida's school districts since July 2021:

Brevard Public Schools
The Haters by Jesse Andrews
Damsel by Elana K. Arnold,
Infandous by Elana K. Arnold,
Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold,
What Girls Are Made Of by Elana K. Arnold,
Forever... by Judy Blume,
This Book Is Gay by Juno Dawson
Crank (Crank Series) by Ellen Hopkins
Tilt by Ellen Hopkins
Triangles by Ellen Hopkins
Tricks (Tricks Series) by Ellen Hopkins
Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson,
Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Sold by Patricia McCormick
The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
Push
by Sapphire
Lucky
by Alice Sebold
Not My Problem
by Ciara Smyth
This One Summer
by Mariko Tamaki

Clay County School District
All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson

Flagler Schools
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
All Boys Aren't Blue
by George M. Johnson
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
by Ibram X. Kendi
The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas

School District of Indian River County
Ace of Spades by Àbíké-Íyímídé, Faridah
The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo,
How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater (Edward Zanni Series)
by Marc Acito
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
Girls Like Us (2019)
by Cristina Alger
The House of the Spirits
by Isabel Allende
Hear These Voices: Youth at the Edge of the Millennium
by Anthony Allison
Speak
by Laurie Halse Anderson
Feed
by M. T. Anderson
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
by Jesse Andrews
The Haters
by Jesse Andrews
Wishtree
by Katherine Applegate
Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher
The Black Flamingo
by Dean Atta
The Handmaid's Tale
by Margaret Atwood
Sorted: Growing Up, Coming Out, and Finding My Place by Jackson Bird
Boy2Girl
by Terence Blacker
Bowery Girl
by Kim Taylor Blakemore
Someone I Used to Know
by Patty Blount
Forever...
by Judy Blume
Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard
by Echo Brown
Ready or Not (All-American Girl Series)
by Meg Cabot
King and the Dragonflies
by Kacen Callender
Draw Me a Star
by Eric Carle
Graceling (Graceling Realm Series)
by Kristin Cashore
Awakened (House of Night Series)
by P. C. Cast
Betrayed (House of Night Series)
by P. C. Cast
Burned (House of Night Series)
by P. C. Cast
Chosen (House of Night Series)
by P. C. Cast
Destined (House of Night Series)
by P. C. Cast
Hidden (House of Night Series)
by P. C. Cast
Hunted (House of Night Series)
by P. C. Cast
Marked (House of Night Series)
by P. C. Cast
Redeemed (House of Night Series)
by P. C. Cast
Revealed (House of Night Series)
by P. C. Cast
Tempted (House of Night Series)
by P. C. Cast
Untamed (House of Night Series)
by P. C. Cast
The Rape of Nanking
by Iris Chang
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky
City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments Series)
by Cassandra Clare
Imbeciles: The Supreme Court, American Eugenics, and the Sterilization of Carrie Buck
by Adam Cohen
The Kingdom of Little Wounds
by Susann Cokal
Little & Lion
by Brandy Colbert
The Facts Speak for Themselves
by Brock Cole
Rift (Nightshade Prequel Series)
by Andrea Cremer
Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Peña
Blended
by Sharon M. Draper
Killing Mr. Griffin
by Lois Duncan
Perfect Chemistry (Perfect Chemistry Series)
by Simone Elkeles
Who Am I Without Him?: A Short Story Collection about Girls and Boys in Their Lives
by Sharon G. Flake
Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
by Jonathan Safran Foer
The Carnival at Bray
by Jessie Ann Foley
Dime
by E. R. Frank
The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person
by Joseph Frederick
Lush
by Natasha Friend
A Quick & Easy Guide to Queer & Trans Identities
by Mady G.
Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
by Roxane Gay
Melissa (George)
by Alex Gino
Joshua and the City
by Joseph F. Girzone
The Vincent Boys (The Vincent Boys Series)
by Abbi Glines
Cross My Heart (Cross My Heart Series)
by Sasha Gould
Looking for Alaska
by John Green
Water for Elephants
by Sara Gruen
Homegoing
by Yaa Gyasi
What We Saw by Hartzler, Aaron
Black Lives Matter: From a Moment to a Movement
by Hillstrom, Laurie Collier
Crank (Crank Series)
by Ellen Hopkins
Perfect (Impulse Series)
by Ellen Hopkins
Traffick (Tricks Series)
by Ellen Hopkins
Triangles
by Ellen Hopkins
Tricks (Tricks Series)
by Ellen Hopkins
The Kite Runner
by Hosseini, Khaled
Brave Face: A Memoir
by Hutchinson, Shaun David
Brave New World
by Huxley, Aldous
This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work
by Jewell, Tiffany
The Breakaways
by Johnson, Cathy G.
All Boys Aren't Blue
by Johnson, George M.
This Is My America
by Johnson, Kim
Exit, Pursued by a Bear
by Johnston, E. K.
How to Be an Antiracist
by Kendi, Ibram X.
They Called Me Red
by Kilbourne, Christina
The Music of What Happens
by Konigsberg, Bill
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out
by Kuklin, Susan
Trail of Crumbs by Lisa J. Lawrence
My Book of Life by Angel
by Martine Leavitt
I'll Be the One
by Lyla Lee
Rape On Campus
by Bruno Leone,
Fly on the Wall: How One Girl Saw Everything
by E. Lockhart
Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, Plural. If My Life Weren't Complicated, I Wouldn't Be Ruby Oliver
by E. Lockhart
Thanks a Lot, Universe
by Chad Lucas
A Court of Mist and Fury
by Sarah J. Maas
Charmed
by Carrie Mac
Strange Fruit: Why Both Sides Are Wrong in the Race Debate
by Kenan Malik
Did I Mention I Need You? (DIMILY Series)
by Estelle Maskame
The Truth About Alice: A Novel
by Patricia McCormick
Sold
by Joy McCullough
Blood Water Paint
by Charlton D. McIlwain
Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, from the Afronet to Black Lives Matter
by Richelle Mead
Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy Series)
by Meg Medina
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
by Tony Medina
I Am Alfonso Jones
by J. P. Miller
Brave Leaders and Activists
by Ken Mochizuki
Baseball Saved Us
by Ken Mochizuki
Beloved
by Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison
Monster
by Walter Dean Myers
l8r, g8r
by Lauren Myracle
The Infinite Moment of Us
by Lauren Myracle
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
The Things They Carried
by Tim O'Brien
The Witch Boy (The Witch Boy Series)
by Molly Knox Ostertag
The Best at It
by Maulik Pancholy
Sisters/Hermanas
by Gary Paulsen
Out of Darkness
by Ashley Hope Pérez
grl2grl
by Julie Anne Peters
My Sister's Keeper
by Jodi Picoult
Nineteen Minutes
by Jodi Picoult
The Tenth Circle
by Jodi Picoult
The Nowhere Girls
by Amy Reed
The Black Kids
by Christina Hammonds Reed
All American Boys
by Jason Reynolds
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
by Jason Reynolds
Ghost Boys
by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Living Proud! Coming Out and Seeking Support (Living Proud! Growing Up Lgbtq)
by Robert Rodi
Lucy Peale
by Colby Rodowsky
Eleanor & Park
by Rainbow Rowell
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Aristotle and Dante Series)
by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Bait
by Alex Sanchez
Rainbow Boys (Rainbow Trilogy Series)
by Alex Sanchez
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
by Erika L. Sánchez
Lucky
by Alice Sebold
Out of the Easy
by Ruta Sepetys
The Berlin Boxing Club
by Robert Sharenow
Safe
by Susan Shaw
More Happy Than Not
by Adam Silvera
Marriage of a Thousand Lies
by S. J. Sindu
Grasshopper Jungle (Grasshopper Jungle Series)
by Andrew Smith
The Opposite of Innocent
by Sonya Sones
What My Mother Doesn't Know (What My Mother Doesn't Know Series)
by Sonya Sones
Maus 1: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History
by Art Spiegelman
Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda
by Jean-Philippe Stassen
Of Mice and Men
by John Steinbeck
Dear Martin
by Nic Stone
Odd One Out
by Nic Stone
A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl
by Tanya Lee Stone
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
Drama: A Graphic Novel
by Raina Telgemeier
Cemetery Boys
by Aiden Thomas
The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas
#BlackLivesMatter: Protesting Racism
by Rachael L. Thomas
Blankets
by Craig Thompson
Gossip Girl: A Novel by Cecily von Ziegesar (Gossip Girl Series)
by Cecily von Ziegesar
Spinning
by Tillie Walden
The Color Purple
by Alice Walker
The Glass Castle
by Jeannette Walls
Empty
by K. M. Walton
A Certain Slant of Light
by Laura Whitcomb
What Is Black Lives Matter? (What was...? Series)
by Lakita Wilson
Doing It!: Let's Talk About Sex
by Hannah Witton
Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America
by Ibi Zoboi

Orange County Public Schools
Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

Pinellas County Schools
Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe

Polk County Public Schools
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
by Jonathan Safran Foer
Melissa (George)
by Alex Gino
The Vincent Boys (The Vincent Boys Series)
by Abbi Glines
It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health
by Robie H. Harris
Tricks (Tricks Series)
by Ellen Hopkins
The Kite Runner
by Khaled Hosseini,
I am Jazz by Jazz Jennings
Almost Perfect
by Brian Katcher
Two Boys Kissing
by David Levithan,
Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, Plural. If My Life Weren't Complicated, I Wouldn't Be Ruby Oliver
by E. Lockhart
Beloved
by Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye
by Toni Morrison
Nineteen Minutes
by Jodi Picoult
More Happy Than Not
by Adam Silvera
Drama: A Graphic Novel
by Raina Telgemeier
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