My all-time favorite writer, not counting those I am friends with or married to, is the late Larry L. King, born in the tiny Texas town of Putnam in 1929.

I’m also a huge fan of oral histories. So you can imagine how excited I was to learn just recently about a 1991 collection of oral histories from Texans that includes several rollicking pages of reminiscences from Larry L. King.

Those pages end with King’s recollection of his own mother’s disappointment in him as a writer. It’s both sad and funny, and I hope the excerpt below is enough to make folks seek out King’s work as well as Ron Strickland’s book Texans.

But what really struck me about the complaints of Larry L. King’s mother from many decades ago is how much it sounds like the thinking of today’s supposedly pro-education book-banners in Texas and elsewhere:

[My mother] got me reading early and encouraged me to write when I was a kid. So I had thought that because she had kept urging me to become educated that she’d be the one that cared about my work later on when I became a writer. Instead she was very disappointed in it.

I sent her my first book, a novel called THE ONE-EYED MAN, and I got back a letter from her with the economical comment that she found it “interesting.” And I knew her well enough to know that that was a sign of disapproval.

When I saw her the next time I visited, I said, “Mom, all right, what was it you didn’t like about my book?”

And she said, “Well, Lawrence, just every time I read one of those old ugly words I just wanted to take an eraser and scratch it out.”

And I laughed and I said, “Well, go ahead, Momma. You can do whatever you want to with it. It’s your book.”

And she said seriously, “Oh, Lawrence, but there are all those *other* copies.”

And that’s the true soul of a censor. They’ll constantly want expanded territory. And my mother got so upset by some stuff I wrote that she told me once, “I’m just tired of apologizing to my friends for that stuff.”

And I said, “Well, don’t apologize.”

Once in her later years, she finally said to me in tears, “I wish I’d kept ya on that farm and ya’d never learned to read and write.”

Today, communities in Texas and beyond are plagued by likeminded zealots with the true souls of censors, an inappeasable desire for expanded territory, and a preference for ignorance over ideas.

Feel free to laugh at them, but don’t let them take their eraser to other people’s freedom to read.