Jessie Ann Foley, the Irish American author of “The Carnival at Bray,” has hit out at the “disgustingly anti-American” book bans that her novel, which is set in part in Ireland, has been subject to.

"The Carnival at Bray," published in 2014, tells the story of 16-year-old Maggie Lynch as she's "uprooted" from Chicago to "a windswept town on the Irish Sea" in 1993.

"When first love and sudden death simultaneously strike, a naive but determined Maggie embarks on a forbidden pilgrimage that will take her to a seedy part of Dublin and on to a life-altering night in Rome to fulfill a dying wish," the book's synopsis says.

"Through it all, Maggie discovers an untapped inner strength to do the most difficult but rewarding thing of all—live."

Foley's novel was recently included in Iowa's Urbandale Community School District's list of books "believed to violate Senate File 496 that are part of the Urbandale Schools library collection."

"The list was compiled in response to SF496," a representative for the school district told IrishCentral on Thursday, referring to legislation signed by Governor of Iowa Kim Reynolds in May.

"The list includes books that are believed to violate 'any material with descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act as defined in section 702.17.'"

The representative shared the list of the books with IrishCentral that was up-to-date as of August 8. Containing fewer than 70 titles, the latest list is a fraction of the original list that included more than 350 titles.

According to the Des Moines Register, the list shrunk after the district paused removing books referencing gender identity and or sexual orientation.

Foley's book remains on the latest, smaller list - as does James Joyce's "Ulysses" and Edna O'Brien's "The Country Girls."

On the foot of a FOIA, Annie's Foundation, which seeks to ensure that people have "unhindered access to books," published an email that was issued to Urbandale school staffers on July 21.

The email said that in light of SF496, "each staff member is responsible for reviewing the list and ensuring that at a minimum these books are removed from Urbandale classrooms, schools, or block on digital libraries and not part of required learning experiences."

The list of books, the email said, was subject to change.

"Personally purchased titles should be taken home," the email added, "School
or PTO purchased books should be given to your school librarian for collection."

Urbandale isn't the first banned book list that "The Carnival at Bray" has landed on, Foley told IrishCentral on Thursday.

“'The Carnival at Bray' has been banned or challenged in Tennessee, Utah, Florida, South Carolina, and, apparently, now Iowa.

“And these are just the ones I know about thanks to reporters and librarians reaching out to me."

Foley said that her book, along with Khaled Hosseini's "The Kite Runner," was "on the chopping block" in Wilson County, Tennessee, but thanks to librarian Lindsey Patrick Wright’s efforts, both her and Hosseini's books “will remain in schools in that part of the country.”

“I find the current book-banning trend to be disgustingly un-American," Foley said.

"Every parent has the right to decide what's appropriate for their own children, but they DO NOT have the right to decide what is appropriate for other people's children. 

“And the reason 'Carnival' has been subject to so many of these bans is because it is part of a master list of book titles put together by an extremist hate group called Moms For Liberty.

"This list is then used by conservative school boards (who are too lazy to actually read the books themselves) as a means to purge any novels they deem inappropriate under the false guise of 'parental rights.'"

In April, Tiffany Justice, co-founder of Moms for Justice, said on Newsnation: “What we’re talking about is curating content in a library.

"You wouldn’t have the same books in a medical college that you would in a seminary, and just because a book is printed doesn’t mean that it belongs in a children’s library.”

Justice was speaking just days after PEN America, an advocacy group that aims to "protect free expression in the United States and worldwide," reported that "the movement to ban books is driven by a vocal minority demanding censorship."

According to PEN America, Moms for Liberty was connected to 58% of all advocacy-led book bans around the US during the first half of the 2022-23 school year.

PEN America also found that "Overwhelmingly, book banners continue to target stories by and about people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals."

PEN America's report was issued before Iowa's SF496 legislation came into effect.

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Foley further told IrishCentral: “The irony of all of this is that even though 'The Carnival at Bray' was the recipient of many awards, including a Printz Honor, it was published by a tiny press that has since folded. 

“It's very possible, because of this, that the book may have gone out of print (and in fact currently IS out of print except via audiobook).

“But partially thanks to the new attention bestowed on it by Moms For Liberty, it is going to be reissued next year for its ten-year anniversary by my current publisher, QuillTree Books/HarperCollins, with a beautiful new cover and a much larger platform."

“If this wasn't all so scary, it would sort of be funny.”

Meanwhile, "Breda's Island," the latest novel from Foley who has roots in Co Mayo, Co Clare, and Co Kerry, is set in Dingle.

The Irish American said playfully: "No one's banned that one yet though."