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Students Discuss Book Banning with Authors of "And Tango Make Three"

Andres David Lopez
Published in 2005, “And Tango Makes Three” made the American Library Association top ten challenged and banned books list for the first time in 2006. That year, we gave it our Manhattan Country School MLK Living the Dream Book Award.

“The letter that we got letting us know that we won is a letter that we prize and that I read often,” said Justin Richardson, one of the book’s authors, after visiting our students today.

“We’ve also gotten many awards, but there’s none we’re prouder of,” said Peter Parnell, the book’s other author.

One of the most challenged and banned books of the last two decades, according to the ALA, “And Tango Makes Three” is currently banned in several Florida school districts.

Justin and Peter are suing Florida and Lake County School District, which cited the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, signed by Gov. Ron Desantis in 2022, as the reason the book was restricted.

Yesterday, the ALA released data about book bans in the United States in 2023. A record 4,240 unique book titles were targeted for censorship, a 65% increase from 2021. Forty-seven percent of the books targeted were titles representing the voices of LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC individuals.

Justin and Peter are suing in federal court and are willing to take their First Amendment fight to the Supreme Court. They cited the case of Steven Pico as an inspiration. A Long Island teen in the 1970s, Steven challenged a book ban by his local school board, took his fight to the Supreme Court, and won.

Our Upper School students have discussed book banning and the history of “And Tango Makes Three” with Jay, so they were ready with questions and insights. Justin and Peter agreed they showed sophistication beyond their years.

“We were amazed by the children's ability to take on the topic and talk about it with such maturity and good humor and seriousness of mind,” Peter said.

Thank you, Justin and Peter, for sharing your book with us, engaging us in an important conversation, and helping us celebrate MCS Book Week!
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