A Letter From A Reader

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about some bad bills in the North Dakota Legislature that attempt to ban books from our pubic libraries. One, SB 2123, was a goofy bill that just removed libraries from the list of places “dirty books” are allowed to be displayed. It was such a bad bill that it failed in the Senate on a vote of 46-1. Even its sponsor voted against it.

But it turns out it was an unnecessary bill, because two others, HB 1205 and SB 2360, take care of the dirty work SB 2123 was attempting.

You’ve been reading about them in all the papers, so I won’t go into them in detail here, except to say they are an attack on public libraries.

Libraries and their guardians, the Librarians (now there’s a word that should always be capitalized to stress its importance), have risen to the occasion in protesting these bills, although to no avail so far.

SB 2360 passed the Senate on a vote of 38-9, with five Republicans siding with the chamber’s four Democrats in voting against it (including my district’s Senator, Sean Cleary, who I didn’t vote for, but I’ve been watching his record, and I might have to consider it next time). Good for those five brave Republicans. You can look at the vote here (page 22, or page 636 of the Senate Journal.

Over in the House, a similar bill, HB 1205, passed by a vote of 65-28, with 14 brave Republicans siding with all 14 House Democrats in opposing it, including my Representative, Bob Martinson, who I always vote for. You can look at the vote here (page 4, or page 767 of the House Journal).

That’s the background on the book banning bills so far this session, But that’s not the real reason I’m writing about them today. I’m writing because I want to share something with you. It’s a letter written by my stepdaughter Chelsea, Lillian’s youngest daughter (she gets a kick out of me saying that, since  they were twins and born minutes apart, she second, but still . . .).

She wrote letters to her two Representatives and her Senator asking them to vote against these bills when they come back around for a vote now that they’ve crossed over from their house of origin. All three—Senator Mike Dwyer and Representatives Lawrence Klemin and Mike Motschenbacher vote for them the first time around.

Here’s Chelsea’s letter. Her mom and I are pretty proud of her.

To my Representatives and Senator,

I am a lifelong North Dakota resident and I’ve always been an avid reader. I’ve lived in 2 worlds. One is a world of books. I’ve vanquished dementors with Harry Potter, made passionate love with Gabriel Emerson, listened to music with Eleanor and Park, investigated crime scenes with Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, and encountered peculiar, extraordinary people with Jacob Portman.

Do you even know what books those are referencing? If not, you should. There have been books that have made me cry, left me breathless with their too-soon ending, and some that I knew I would never finish.

I know as well as anyone that I can’t control what someone else reads or doesn’t read, nor they me. I also know that if I don’t want to read something or am not enjoying what I’m reading, I can close the book and put it down, and exchange it for another one.

Libraries are not just books; they are places where unhoused people come to get warm; they provide internet access for people who can’t afford their own; a quiet place for students to study and for anyone to research; a non-judgmental place for parents to bring their toddlers to read their first books; and a place for people to apply for jobs without interruption. You can even check out movies from libraries.

It’s better, in my opinion, to have your nose in a book than in other people’s private business. None of you, our elected officials, could have gotten to where you are today, nor would you be able to do your very jobs, without reading things. I urge you to vote NO on SB 2360 and HB1205.

Thank you.

Chelsea Sorenson, Bismarck, ND

7 thoughts on “A Letter From A Reader

  1. Jim, I love your blog and now I’m crazy about Chelsea. What a great letter! Inspired, I’m writing one too.


  2. As a former ND resident I have kept up with of the things going on in state with regard to the libraries. Sadly my current state of Ga is doing the same things and we have MTG 😱. Right now I think Florida is the worst in a lot of issues with our freedoms.


  3. Chelsea (okay, Jim, too),

    Congrats to you, Chelsea, for expressing your passion to our state legislatures. Your description of the many emotions you experienced while reading books is the most convincing argument to never ban a book. Going to a movie, watching TV will never do what reading can do for inspiring one’s spirit.

    Your letter was also a very well-written testimonial. As well-written as anybody’s — ever. I’m pretty sure your writing skills were given to you as a side benefit of your reading skills.

    You’ve done exactly what the banning of books are bound to quell. I find book-banning (way too kind for a description) as one thing governments, even democracies, over the centuries have done to keep their citizens uneducated.

    Keep your crusade going, Chelsea!

    — j.c.balcom


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