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If you walk into the Granville Island bookstore Upstart & Crow, you’ll see titles organized into unique and creative sections. It’s not just memoir, history, and literature—instead, it’s “Where To?”, “Literary Magic”, and even “Banned Books”.
Vancouver author Alex Kazemi’s New Millennium Boyz may soon find itself in the latter camp. Buckle up—this is a wild one.
The 33-page review document begins with this as reasoning for its score: “This book contains aberrant sexual activities including beastiality and assault; obscene sexual activities; sexual nudity; animal cruelty; violence; gore; excessive/frequent profanity and derogatory terms; reference to hate including racism, bigotry, and homophobia; controversial religious and political commentary; satan worship; drug and alcohol use by minors; alternate sexualities; alternate gender ideologies; and self-harm including self-mutilation, anorexia, and suicide.”
New Millennium Boyz follows 17-year-old Brad, who, bored with his basic existence, finds himself some edgy new friends. They help him unearth and indulge his demonic side—but are they really his friends, or will they reveal their own dark motives when things get sticky? Taking place at the turn of the millennium, the coming-of-age novel is unflinching (and at times uncomfortable) in its look at the early internet, toxic masculinity, teen sexuality, and suburban rebellion.
In a promotional statement in support of the novel, Ellen Hopkins—who has authored many books that have since been banned—describes it as “raucous, raunchy, and sure to offend, and there are readers who’ll appreciate those things.”
So here’s where this story gets twisty.
On its about page, BookLooks.org outlines its motives this way: “We are concerned parents who have been frustrated by the lack of resource material for content-based information regarding books accessible to children and young adults. We make no money and seek no recognition in our efforts. We believe sunlight is the best disinfectant and parents should have the information at their disposal to make informed decisions about the content their children consume.”
The website stresses that it is not affiliated with any other organizations, but USA Today reports that it has been used by American far-right political activist group Moms for Liberty (which is currently enmeshed in a sex scandal, though that is a story for another day). Backing up this claim is online literary magazine BookRiot, which reports that court filings show that BookLooks is run by Moms for Liberty member Emily Maikisch.
Moms for Liberty was founded in 2021, using its robust revenue and communication network to back right-wing political candidates. As one might imagine, the group’s views are the opposite of progressive, taking issue with everything from discussions of race to LGBTQ+ inclusivity. One of the ways they’ve been most successful in pushing their agenda is through book bans.
BookLooks.org claims that it does not endorse book bans. But according to USA Today, “in less than two years, BookLooks has become the go-to resource for anyone seeking to ban books—especially books about gay people or sexuality—from school and public libraries, according to researchers, library experts, and a USA Today analysis of book-ban attempts nationwide.”
So, while Kazemi’s novel landing on BookLooks.org does not immediately mean it has been banned in the States, it is certainly now at high risk.
Reached via email, the author has this to say:
“This has now been a book that both the left and the right have tried to censor. I was under the impression that the lineage of literary forefathers who survived the trials of censorship throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s would have created a world where I could depict the horrors of documentary reality without an issue, however I was incorrect. I wrote this book to raise awareness regarding the monoculture that has misguided and failed millennial men—sometimes artists use absurdism and satire to bring a voyeuristic experience to the reader. What Emily Maikisch is doing with BookLooks.org is dangerous, especially for the authors of tomorrow. My publisher has received emails from librarians who have gotten calls about the book. Maikisch has single-handedly created a demented piece of right-wing propaganda, outwardly representing my work out-of-context and blasting it to Conservatives.”
In conclusion, he says, it’s too bad that people “can’t have open-mindedness about art being a vehicle for a bigger cultural discourse that benefits all humans and all sides for the better.”
Far-right Conservatives who want certain books to be banned claim that keeping them available is dangerous. But really, the opposite is true: censoring art and communication is the real danger here. Parents have the right to choose, up to a certain age, what books their own children read. They should not, however, have the right to dictate what books remain available for others.
The desire to ban books does not come from concern—it comes from fear. Understanding is a vital part of humanity. Removing books that explore lived experiences outside our own will only create a more fractured world.