At a Joe Biden rally in Virginia tonight, Democrat and gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe’s staff passed out copies of Toni Morrison’s Beloved to journalists. This cheeky play comes after McAuliffe’s opponent Republican Glenn Youngkin released a video ad Monday featuring a Fairfax mom who had tried to get Toni Morrison’s novel banned in public schools back in 2013, concerned with its “explicit content.”
Laura Murphy, aka “Karen,” tried to get the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel banned from Virginia public schools in 2013, alleging it gave her then-17-year-old son (who, it should be noted, is now associate general counsel for the National Republican Congressional Committee) nightmares after he read it in an AP English class. It was “disgusting and gross,” Murphy said at the time, admitting to the Washington Post that he “gave up on it.” Toni Morrison’s Beloved, published in 1993, set during reconstruction, tells the story of a former slave family whose home in Cincinnati is haunted. It features matricide and beastiality and is dedicated to “Sixty Million and more,” referring to those who died as a result of the Atlantic Slave Trade.
Youngkin’s ad features Murphy and her Fahrenheit 451-esque push for bills that notify parents when “explicit” content is assigned in schools. Additionally, the bills, which she says are bipartisan, give parents options to “choose an alternative.” In the video, titled “McAuliffe Shut Us Out,” Murphy, solemnly sitting with her hands crossed, says when her son showed her his reading assignment in high school, her “heart sunk,” adding, it was “some of the most explicit material you can imagine.”
More explicit and heart-sinking is America’s brutal history of slavery, our refusal to face it, and a potential ban on any book, ever. McAuliffe’s campaign seems to agree. As Murphy notes in the ad, McAuliffe, as governor, had previously vetoed her proposed legislation not once, but twice fearing that the legislation would lead to censorship. In a now-pinned tweet from Monday, McAuliffe wrote: “Glenn is spending his final days of the campaign focused on banning award-winning books from our schools & silencing the voices of Black authors. “
Just one week out from Virginia’s gubernatorial election, candidates Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin seem to be tied, according to a Suffolk University poll. At this late stage of the campaign, education issues have become a main point of contention for the nominees. Hold your books a little tighter.