A new independent library in downtown St. Pete will celebrate banned books, and books that are in danger of being “removed” from Florida libraries because of recently-enacted legislation.
American Stage, on 3rd Street N. just east of Williams Park where the massive Localtopia will be taking place Saturday, is opening the lending library, in conjunction with Keep St. Pete Lit and Tombolo Books.
The library will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays, in the American Stage lobby.
“I believe that readers are leaders,” said Maureen McDole, founder and executive director of Keep St. Pete Lit. “And if the people in power don’t want certain books in children’s hands, you have to ask why.
“I think it’s important for all children to see themselves represented in literature – because books save lives. They saved my life.”
Among the many titles removed from Pinellas County libraries by the Florida legislature, and available from the American Stage Banned Books Library: Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings; Gender Queer, A Memoir, by Maia Kobabe; Perfect, by Ellen Hopkins; The Kite Runner, By Khaled Hosseini; The Electric Slide and Kai, by Kelly J Baptist and Darnell Johnson and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.
Alongside such acknowledged classics as To Kill a Mockingbird, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and The Diary of Anne Frank, which have been banned in other counties.
According to the literary trend website PEN America, of the books banned between July 2021 and June 2022, 41% had LGBTQ themes, protagonists or prominent secondary characters, 40% had characters of color as primary or prominent secondary characters, 21% dealt with race or racism, and 22% contained sexual content.
All books have been donated; they can be read onsite, or borrowed and returned.
“I hope that it’s the first of many banned book libraries in our community, for as long as there is a need for them,” said McDole. “Hopefully, they won’t be needed for long.”