Maine school district votes against removal of one of the nation’s most-challenged books – The Hill

history at a glance

  • A southern Maine school board voted almost unanimously Monday to keep Gender Queer: A Memoir in school libraries after some parents and community members challenged the book over illustrations of nudity and sex.

  • Gender Queer was the most contested book in America last year, according to the American Library Association.

  • Several other local school boards have voted against proposals to remove “gender queer” and other LGBTQ+ titles from libraries, arguing that LGBTQ+ youth should be able to see themselves represented in literature.

A Maine school board voted almost unanimously this week to keep Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer: A Memoir — the nation’s most contested book — on library shelves after parents and conservative community groups disagreed that the graphic memoir was inappropriate for young readers.

Board members for Maine School Administrative District (MSAD) 6 voted 10-to-1 during a Monday night meeting to keep Kobabe’s book in school libraries, with board member Julie Anderson casting the only dissenting vote.

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Anderson was the only board member last month to support a proposal to ban the 1994 book It’s Perfectly Normal, which educates prepubescent children about puberty and sexual health and identity.

Kobabe’s “Gender Queer” describes the author and cartoonist’s exploration of their sexuality and gender identity from early adolescence through adulthood. Kobabe is openly nonbinary and asexual, using gender-neutral pronouns.

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First published in 2019, Gender Queer has been at the center of a national push this year to remove books from schools and public libraries, with parents and community groups across the country claiming the title contained sexually explicit content unsuitable for children be and young adults.

In July, an Iowa library was forced to close temporarily after several employees quit in connection with the LGBTQ+ book challenge. A month later, a Michigan library was stripped of funding by its residents after refusing to remove LGBTQ+ books, including “Gender Queer.”

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A Virginia man filed a lawsuit in April to have the book declared indecent for children under the state’s obscenity law. A federal judge dismissed the case in August.

Gender Queer, which has been nominated for multiple youth book awards, topped the American Library Association’s list of Most Challenged Books last year. A recent report by PEN America, a nonprofit group campaigning for free expression in literature, found that more than 1,600 books were banned in more than 5,000 schools in the last year, with most banned titles on LGBTQ+ issues, Identities and races concerned.

The MSAD 6 school board’s decision to keep Kobabe’s book may be a departure from widespread efforts to remove it, but it’s not the only body voting against banning the graphic memoir.

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Last month, in a meeting that reportedly lasted less than four minutes, a panel of educators and parents in Louisville, Kentucky, voted unanimously to keep Gender Queer in two public school libraries and rejected a parent’s challenge to the book on grounds of racial injustice Scenes involving nudity and sex.

A key function of public libraries, the panel said in its decision, is to provide access to “a diverse literary body that enables our students to reflect on themselves and their peers.”

Also in January, a North Carolina school board voted unanimously to keep Gender Queer in high school libraries after complaints were raised about some of the book’s illustrations. The school board also voted against proposals to remove two other frequently contested titles – Jonathan Evison’s Lawn Boy and Ashley Hope Pérez’s Out of Darkness.

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