Emails obtained by the Landmine show that the Anchorage School District (ASD) has removed the book “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe from ASD libraries after an Anchorage resident sent an email expressing concerns with the book. On October 29, Anchorage resident Pete Brown sent an email to members of the Anchorage School Board about the book. It read:
Dear School Board Members,
The attached article identifies some truly objectionable material currently on the shelves of the ASD libraries. I apologize for forwarding this graphic and objectionable material but the quotes contained in the attached link come directly from material you allow on the shelves.
I would appreciate a response from Ms. Bellamy as ASD Board President on behalf of the board to explain to me who is responsible for the selection and promotion of this particular material and what beneficial purpose this material provides to Anchorage students.
The article Brown referenced, “Speaker Removed from Orange County [Fla.] School Board Meeting for Reading from a Book Found at School Library,” included a video of a man reading a passage from the book and then being removed from an Orange County School Board meeting. He was ordered removed after reading a passage that referenced “a new strap-on harness,” which will “fit my favorite dildo perfectly.”
The next day, School Board President Margo Bellamy responsed to Brown’s email saying she would forward the matter to Superintendent Deena Bishop. Her email stated:
Thank you, Mr. Brown,
On behalf of the School Board, I want to thank you for your email and for sharing your concern with us.
While I am the current School Board President, and a former School Librarian, I am not directly involved in the acquisition, management, and selection of library books and other related resources. I believe that your questions are best addressed by the appropriate administrative staff.
Board Policies 1312.2 and 6144 address your concern. Therefore, I will forward your email to the Superintendent for review and ask that she connect you to the individual and process to fully address your concern.
Sincerely and In Service,
Margo Bellamy, President
Anchorage School Board
On November 12, nearly two weeks later, Brown sent a follow-up email to Bellamy inquiring why he had not received a response:
Dear Ms. Bellamy,
To date I have had no response from anyone on staff at the ASD in regard to this material. Apparently the ASD does not consider this important enough to address in a timely manner.
So, please advise me in writing if the ASD staff and school board members still considers this material appropriate for our school libraries. Alternatively, if the material is now considered objectionable, please also advise me in writing of the district’s action to remove it from the shelves.
Also, I still request that the board to explain to me who is responsible for the selection and promotion of this particular material and what beneficial purpose this material was thought to provide to Anchorage students.
Bishop responded to Brown’s email the same day. Bishop stated that after a review, she is recommending the book no longer be in circulation in ASD libraries. She stated that the book was ordered in a batch of “award winning” books. She added that the book will still be available to the general public in Municipal libraries.
Dear Mr. Brown,
As I shared with you in my reply, I have asked for a review of this book. Yesterday, a final report of this review and a meeting with all librarians took place. I will share the update to you now. I am recommending this book not be in circulation in our libraries. We had found one copy and will remove it from circulation.
This particular book was ordered in a batch purchase of a library association “award winners” package. Hence, it was not ordered in a deliberate request by a librarian. It was purchased simply by the “award winning” book ordering process which is a ubiquitous practice in libraries.
It will be available to the general public via the Muni’s local public libraries; however, students will not have access via the shared resources process for an electronic or hardback copy. Thank you for your feedback on this book. It is an adult novel, and while many adult authors such as Stephen King and Jody Picoult, are appropriate for our teen readers, our assessment is that this one is not appropriate for our school libraries.
Deena M. Bishop, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Anchorage School District
Brown responded by stating he was happy the book has been removed, but is frustrated how the book came to be on school library shelves in the first place. His email read:
Thank you all for your supporting emails. The ASD has removed this truly revolting and inappropriate material.
Some of you may be unhappy to know that this material was purchased and provided to the Anchorage schools without any local school administer or librarian reading it before placing it on the shelves. As Superintendent Deena Bishop advises that “ This particular book was ordered in a batch purchase of a library association “award winners” package. Hence, it was not ordered in a deliberate request by a librarian. It was purchased simply by the “award winning” book ordering process which is a ubiquitous practice in libraries. “
So much for relying on some unnamed library association’s “award winners” list. The school district’s attitude seems to be “don’t blame us, it’s not our fault.”
According to this Simon & Schuster review, “Gender Queer: A Memoir”, written in 2019 by Maia Kobabe (who uses e/em/eir pronouns) is about:
Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears.
Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity—what it means and how to think about it—for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.
Brown, reached by phone, said he understands it may be tough for some kids to come to the realization that they are gay. He doesn’t want to make that more difficult. His concerns with the book is the unnecessary early sexualization of our children.
The book was recently the concern of a Texas mother who discovered it on Keller Independent School District’s bookshelves.
1.Welcome to Keller ISD. Yes,a Texas School.Where legitimate visual porn, a felony offense,is in one of our libraries.They were quick to find the book and pulled it from a students hands,realizing the severity of distributing porn. @realchrisrufo @DeAngelisCorey pic.twitter.com/u6YjODOHUa
— Texas Morning Covfefe🇺🇸🥓 (@BYECAHELLOTEXAS) October 27, 2021