The Inconvenient History of the USA: ‘Love in the Library’

by John Ellis

As the world’s largest children’s book publisher, it is almost assured that everyone reading this is familiar with Scholastic. With Clifford the Big Red Dog as their mascot and holding the US publishing rights to the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series, Scholastic has helped lead the way in encouraging children to discover the ever-expanding universe of books. Over the years, my two oldest have accumulated many books via Scholastic’s book fairs at their various schools. In our house, books are a necessity. Even when our budget was stretched thin, we made sure to have money for the kids to buy a couple of books. So, it was disheartening to hear of Scholastic’s apparent decision to kowtow to the worst actors in the Republican Party’s cultural wars.

Yesterday, author Maggie Tokuda-Hall tweeted, “Ok. No more subtweeting. This is what happened. Full story at the link. I’m so disappointed and furious and unsurprised. But I also have the receipts. Scholastic wanted to feature my book, but ONLY if I censored the word RACISM from the author’s note.”

You can read her detailing of what happened/is happening by clicking here, and I encourage you to read her words. For my part, I want to briefly explain what’s happening, introduce you to the book in question, and then encourage you to a couple courses of action (I just realized, not necessarily in that order).

Love in the Library is a children’s book set in the Minidoka incarceration camp. It’s the true story of how Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s grandparents met and fell in love, even in the midst of a terrible evil perpetuated on them by the United States government. As Tokuda-Hall explains in the Author’s Note, “The 120,000 Japanese Americans who were incarcerated lost their jobs, their homes, their educations, and their possessions. … Robbed of their rights and dignity, the Americans who found themselves in squalor and destitution made the best of their lives that they could in the camps.”

The Japanese Incarceration Camps sit among a long, nearly non-stop list of evils done by the US government over the entirety of this country’s history. Shamefully, I don’t remember learning about the Japanese Incarceration Camps until I was an adult. Scholastic wants to white-wash that terrible history. If you click on the link I shared above, Tokuda-Hall included a photo of the Author’s Note pages with Scholastic’s requested edits. The large corporation that has great influence over the education of our children wants to reduce America’s sins of the Japanese Incarceration Camps to a one-off “oopsie.” They want to do what most of white America does: pretend that the awful things like slavery, the genocide of Indian nations, and the Japanese Incarceration Camps (to list just three) are singular incidents that stand outside of the Hegelian strand of progress that America represents.

Not long after Governor DeSantis signed his “Anti-Woke” bill into law, I had the idea to write a series of articles titled “The Inconvenient History of the United States.” With each article, I would focus on one of the many terrible evils done by this country that most Americans have never heard of. Topics like Chagos Islands, Jacobo Arbenz, Mohammad Mosaddegh, the Gnadenhutten Massacre, and the Massacre in Minnesota are a few among the tragically long list of events I’ve considered writing about.[1] In fact, as I type, I’ve decided to make this article the very first in that series. I’ve put the series off long enough.

One of the great ironies of the Republican Party is that they pretend to care about the erasure of history every time a statue of an enslaver/Confederate traitor is torn down. Yet, they are doing everything in their power to ensure that American history is taught deceitfully and, in some instances, flat out erased. In Florida, books about Rosa Parks, Roberta Clemente, and Jackie Robinson have been pulled off school library shelves. No doubt, evidenced by Scholastic’s attempts to white-wash Love in the Library, books about the Japanese Incarceration Camps will find themselves on the “anti-woke” hit list. To help combat that, and to help ensure that the next generation of Americans are aware of the sins of this country, I encourage you buy Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s Love in the Library for your kids, your grandkids, your neighbor’s kids, and to donate to school libraries.

The short book is engagingly written. The eye-catching and imagination-feeding illustrations add further life to Tokuda-Hall’s wonderful words. The contents are age appropriate and the narrative history honest. I’ve purchased a copy for my kids even though the two oldest are above the target age and my youngest has yet to learn how to read (I’ll read it to her). I’m planning on buying a copy to donate to the school library where my children attend.

Followers of King Jesus should long and work for justice. The deceitful white-washing of history by the likes of Ron DeSantis and Scholastic don’t allow for justice and healing. Sin is never committed in a vacuum and sin has consequences. Of all people, Christians should understand the pervasive and destructive spread of sin and its effects. Denying the terrible moments in this nation’s history is not only deceitful but it helps ensure that future (and current) generations will commit similar atrocities. Helping platform Love in the Library is a small but substantial way that we can help ensure that the enemies of justice do not prevail.

(Subsequent entries in the Incovenient History of the USA will be heavier are historical content. I realized that this article would be a good way to kick off the series and get me to start writing them.)

[1] I could probably write an article a week in the series for the rest of my life and never run out of events/topics.

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