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Banned book author visits independent bookstore, debuts documentary 

FARGO – In honor of Banned Books Week, Zandbroz Variety hosted a live reading and book signing featuring Dave Eggers, the author of the banned book, The Circle 

Dave Eggers is the founder of an independent publishing company and co-founded a youth writing center in San Francisco, Calif  

 “He is the founder of McSweeny’s, a nonprofit, independent publishing company based in San Francisco that produces books, a humor website, The Believer and Illustoria magazines, and a journal of new writing, McSweeny’s Quarterly Concern” according to his website, 

Egger’s novel The Circle was first published in 2013 and gained traction after it had been banned in Rapid City, S.D. in May 2022. This was Egger’s first book that had ever been placed on a banned books list.  

“A couple of years ago, Amanda Uhle (a member of the McSweeny’s publishing team) called me and said ‘hey, have you heard what happened in Rapid City? You got banned’. It’s never happened to me before because I hadn’t tried to write any, you know, a lot of intimate scenes, I guess you’d say,” Eggers said.  

The Circle was not a required reading in Rapid City; however, it was placed on an optional reading list for high school seniors. “There were a number of books, maybe 30 odd books that had been approved. They went through every process. Teachers, administrators, all the higher ups hands said it’s good,” Eggers said.  

According to Eggers, Rapid City purchased numerous copies of The Circle to use within the classroom settings, but the books hadn’t made it into the hands of the students. The banning of The Circle and four other books occurred after four new members were elected to the Rapid City School Board.  

“A new slate of school board members came in that spring, all supported by outsider funding. The voter turnout was 13% and the motivated groups moved this new slate of candidates. None of whom has kids in the district. The new head of the school board had I think six kids. All of school age, but homeschooled. So no members of the school board members were in the actual public education system,” Egger said.  

Books from Zandbroz.
Ross Motter/The Concordian

According to Egger’s article published in the Washington Post, “The Anatomy of a Book Ban,” on May 3, 2022, The Rapid City School Board moved to ban How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue, Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, and Eggers’ The Circle. 

The books were pulled from the shelves of Rapid City schools and plans were presented to destroy the books in question.  

“What was really telling to me, however, was that there were no organic complaints from any parents, students, anybody about these books. They hadn’t even been read by any of the kids. It hadn’t been assigned yet,” Eggers said.  

The Rapid City Journal reported that the boxes of books had disappeared from the unit that they were being held awaiting a decision.  

“I’m sure they actually destroyed them in the end,” Eggers said.  

Eggers reached out to his colleague, Amanda Uhle, to make the banned books available to students in Rapid City.  

“We called the local bookstore, Mitzi’s, and said ‘what if we made all five of these books that have been banned available for free to any seniors in the district that has been deprived of them?’ and they said ‘well, we’re very happy to do that’. They had a display in the next week right in the front. If you go in and you’re a senior in the district, they give you the set for free, as our nonprofit paid for it,” Egger said.  

According to Uhle, almost 500 sets of the five books are in the hands of seniors in Rapid City, and the number is still increasing.  

“Which is 100 times more voluntary then when before they were one of many options.” Said Eggers. 

Egger co-produced a documentary short film called “To Be Destroyed” that debuted at the Fargo Theatre on Oct. 8, 2023 at 7:30p.m. The documentary explores the Rapid City book banning, as well as a community conversation on the topics of censorship and book banning.  

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