Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) announced that it was reinstating two books that were challenged by Stacy Langton, a Virginia mom who confronted the school board over the graphic, sexually explicit content in the books.
One of the books is an illustrated memoir called Gender Queer, by Maia Kobabe, with illustrations and descriptions of a young girl “who uses e/em/eir pronouns.” She grows into an adult who rejects her femininity and identifies as non-binary. The book contains sexual descriptions and illustrations too graphic for this article.
Lawn Boy, the other book, is a “coming-of-age novel,” where in one scene the protagonist describes sexual abuse from an adult when he was ten years old.
At a FCPS Board meeting, Langton read from the books and showed pictures from them. The board tried to shut her down, saying, “There are children in the audience.” Langton was supported by angry parents in the audience, but was later prohibited from entering the school library where her son is a student.
The books were pulled for review by a committee. Excerpts from the books weren’t acceptable for the board to hear, but both books have now been deemed appropriate for high schoolers.
After reviewing the books, FCPS said in a statement:
Two books that were subject to a formal challenge have been deemed appropriate for high school readers following a two-month review process and will be reinstated to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) libraries.
The decision reaffirms FCPS’ ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters. Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journeys.
The committee that reviewed the books said about Lawn Boy, which is available in 11 FCPS high schools:
The book is an accessible examination of race, class, socio-economic struggle, and sexual identity. It paints a portrait of the substantial obstacles faced by those who are marginalized by society. It is an uplifting and humanizing depiction of navigating through setbacks with resiliency to reach goals and will resonate with students.
“There is no pedophilia present in the book,” the committee added, despite the main character’s description of his sexual abuse by a man.
Of Gender Queer, which is available in seven FCPS high schools, the committee opined:
The book is a well-written, scientifically based narrative of one person’s journey with gender identity that contains information and perspective that is not widely represented. This depiction includes the difficulties nonbinary and asexual individuals may face. The book has literary value in its structure, voice, and themes and has won literary awards.
“The book neither depicts nor describes pedophilia,” the review committee said, ignoring a drawing in the book of a grown man sexually abusing a teen boy.
Both books have won Alex Awards from the American Library Association (ALA) and its Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), which “are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.”
Gender Queer also won a Stonewall Book Award for “books that have exceptional merit relating to the LGBTQIA+ experience,” presented by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table (GLBTRT) of the ALA.
The ALA is not a friend to parents. Instead of taking parents’ concerns seriously, the organization’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has advice for school librarians, coaching them about how to fight back against parents who believe books are inappropriate for their children. It labels all attempts to remove objectionable material “censorship.”
One wonders why the ALA and YALSA are so bent on pushing unsuitable books on school children.
Hopefully, Langton and other parents will continue to fight to have obscene and inappropriate materials removed from Fairfax County schools.
Resources and articles:
Several groups and individuals have listed books that are inappropriate for children that may be found in school libraries and classrooms. Parents may want to check out these lists and compare them with what’s in their children’s school. Caution: These book lists and reviews may contain foul language and sexually graphic descriptions, images or excerpts.
- Parents in Loudoun County found hundreds of inappropriate books purchased by their school district. Book titles and descriptions can be found in their “LCPS Diverse Classroom Libraries Book Review.”
- Luke Rosiak, at The Daily Wire, reviewed many books recommended by the ALA and the YALSA here and here.
- The organization No Left Turn lists books with radical and racist ideologies and sexually inappropriate themes and stories. The site has links to other books promoted by the ALA’s GLBTRT and by Welcoming Schools, a program from the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT activist group which partners with the National Education Association.
Photo from Shutterstock.