Amanda Gorman, the National Youth Poet Laureate, called a Florida school’s decision to restrict access to fours books, including one containing her famous poem “The Hill We Climb,” a violation of its students’ “free thought and free speech.”
The response came a day after The Miami Herald first reported that the Bob Graham Education Center, a K-8 school in Miami Lakes, had issued the restrictions in April. The books remain accessible to middle school students at the school, according to the newspaper.
A review by the school materials review committee was initiated after a single parent objected to five titles, complaining that they contained “indirect hate messages.”
One of those books was The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country, a collectible edition of the poem that Gorman read aloud at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“I’m gutted,” she said in a statement posted to social media.
Gorman went on to point out that book bans were nothing new, but have been on the rise in recent years. “And let’s be clear: most of the forbidden works are by authors who have struggled for generations to get on bookshelves,” she said.
The other books that the parent, Daily Salinas, took issue with in a series of March complaints were The ABCs of Black History, Cuban Kids, Countries in the News Cuba, and Love to Langston, according to documents shared by the Florida Freedom to Read Project.
The school’s committee determined that only Countries in the News Cuba was “balanced and age appropriate in its wording and presentation” enough to remain accessible by students of all ages. The others were moved to a different section of the school’s library.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Miami-Dade County Public Schools objected to the idea that any of the works had been banned or removed, saying they remained available to older students “in the middle school section of the media center.”
“What can we do?” Gorman asked. “We must speak out and have our voices heard.” She encouraged her followers to “spread the word” about book bans and donate to PEN America. (The nonprofit, along with Penguin Random House—Gorman’s publisher—and several authors, recently filed a federal lawsuit against Escambia County School District in northern Florida over similar restrictions.)
“Together, this is a hill we won’t just climb, but a hill we will conquer,” she said.
The 25-year-old also shared a copy of Salinas’ complaint about “The Hill We Climb,” in which the parent appeared to confuse its author and publisher as Oprah Winfrey, who provided a foreword to the collectible edition.
In a box asking what she believed was “the function” of the material, Salinas wrote, “Cause confusion and indoctrinate students.” Elsewhere, she highlighted two pages of the book as particularly objectionable. “Is not educational and have indirectly [sic] hate messages,” she scrawled.
Those pages contained two stanzas of “The Hill We Climb” that reflect on justice and the lesson “that quiet isn’t always peace.”
“Somehow, we’ve weathered and witnessed / A nation that isn’t broken,” the section reads, “but simply unfinished.”
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