Dave Eggers offers to replace books a South Dakota school board wants to pulp

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The writer calls the planned destruction of copies of five titles – by Bernardine Evaristo, Alison Bechdel, Imbolo Mbue and Stephen Chbosky as well as his own – ‘an unconscionable horror’


Dave Eggers, author of dystopian satire The Circle, has said he will provide free copies of his novel to schools in South Dakota, as well as copies of four other books that have been banned in the district’s schools.

School administrators in Rapid City thought The Circle, along with How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Booker prize-winning Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, inappropriate for pupils. The district’s schools’ copies have been marked as surplus and are due to be destroyed.

Valerie Brablec Seales, Rapid City Area Schools’ director of teaching, learning and innovation, told the board of education that teachers had requested the books for a new 12th-grade English course. The first concerns about one of the five books were raised in August, the Rapid City Journal reported.

“The mass destruction of books by school boards is an unconscionable horror, and the freethinking young people of South Dakota shouldn’t be subjected to it,” Eggers said. “Every high school student should have unfettered access to literature, so if you’re a Rapid City high school senior, email our office and ask for any of these titles. For every copy the school board destroys, let’s add a new one to the local circulation.”

Eggers, who founded non-profit publishing company McSweeney’s in 1988, is known for standing up for his principles. He refused to sell the hardback edition of The Every, his sequel to The Circle, via Amazon, in a stand against the retailer’s monopoly on the book trade.

Students can email McSweeney’s executive director Amanda Uhle at amanda@daveeggers.net if they wish to be sent any of the banned books, with the titles to be shipped by independent bookstores.

Bernardine Evaristo shared Book Riot’s article about Rapid City’s ban of her book on Twitter, commenting: “Girl, Woman, Other is unsuitable reading material for 17-18 year olds, apparently, and is on a list of books to be banned in South Dakota ‘all of which are by or about people of color and/or queer people’. Funny that.”

Alison Bechdel also took to Twitter to discuss the “book banning madness”, thanking Eggers and Uhle for their plan to fight back.

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