Author’s Last Name Causes Children’s Book To Be Put On A Ban List By Mistake

Weeks after a Texas teacher was fired for reading a passage from an illustrated version of Anne Frank’s Diary to her eighth-grade class, a new controversy regarding book bans has erupted at a public library in Alabama.

A book called Read Me A Story, Stella, was removed from the children’s section of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library (HCPL) because it was deemed “sexually explicit”. The reason? The author’s last name is “Gay”.

Recently, a public library in Alabama flagged “Read Me a Story, Stella”, a children’s picture book, because the author’s name is Marie-Louise Gay

Image credits: Groundwood

Written by Canadian children’s author Marie-Louise Gay, the story follows siblings Sam and Stella, who enjoy a day out together reading, visiting a lake, and building a doghouse.

The picture book was put on the “sexually explicit” list because it contained the word “gay.” Other books that included the keywords “lesbian,” ”gay,” “gender,” and “identity” had also been targeted at the library.

“Although it is obviously laughable that our picture book shows up on their list of censored books simply because the author’s last name is Gay, the ridiculousness of that fact should not detract from the seriousness of the situation,” Gay’s publicist Kristen Brassard said of the incident.

The events come after several states have passed legislation that allows for book bans at public libraries. The most talked-about example is arguably Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act, which is inscribed in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ war on “woke culture.”

The book, along with many others, was deemed “sexually explicit”

Image credits: Marie-Louise Gay

Local officials admitted the book was added to the roughly 200-book list by mistake

Image credits: Pixabay (not the actual photo)

Brassard said that the book had been “mistakenly censored” and cited another example of a book titled The Hate U Give, which has also been included on the list and includes the shooting of a black teenager by a police officer.

The publicist continued: “This proves, as always, that censorship is never about limiting access to this book or that one. It is about sending the message to children that certain ideas—or even certain people—are not worthy of discussion, acknowledgment, or consideration.”

“This is a hateful message in a place like a public library, where all children are meant to feel safe and where their curiosity about the world is meant to be nurtured.”

Marie-Louise Gay has been writing children’s books since 1984 and this is the first time any of them were “mistakenly censored”

Image credits: Bull-Doser

Cindy Hewitt, the HCPL executive director, spoke about the decision to remove Read Me A Story, Stella from the children’s section shelves, saying that the book had been banned by mistake.

“Obviously, we’re not going to touch that book for any reason,” she said. “We understand and appreciate our community and the needs of our collection to reflect our community. We were never eliminating any books. We were just looking at it as a whole.”

As she explained, the incident occurred because she had instructed branch managers to look for words such as “sexuality, gender, sex, and dating” when deciding which title to flag.

She based her decision on the Clean Up Alabama initiative, which aims to “safeguard the well-being and innocence of children by advocating for a safe and enriching environment in the children’s sections of our public libraries”, as read on the initiative’s page.

PEN America has reported that there were at least 1,477 attempts to ban 874 individual book titles within the first half of the 2022-2023 school year.

Image credits: Pixabay (not the actual photo)

“Miscommunication and confusion”, Hewitt said, had ultimately led to a non-sexual book to be put under review.

According to the news outlet AL, 91% of 233 titles that have been reviewed at the Madison branch library contain the words lesbian, gay, transgender, gender identity, or gender non-conforming in the subject header.

Alyx Kim-Yohn, the circulation manager at HCPL, said that Hewitt made them move the book to an adult section of the library.

Following widespread criticism, the book review process was halted.

“Why are we just unilaterally moving all of this before anyone’s even complained about these books yet?,” Kim-Yohn wondered.

The incident is part of a bigger picture. PEN America has reported that there were at least 1,477 attempts to ban 874 individual book titles within the first half of the 2022-2023 school year.

The figure marks a nearly 30% spike in book bans compared to the previous year.

Naturally, people agreed with the publicist and thought that the whole situation was quite ridiculous

The post Author’s Last Name Causes Children’s Book To Be Put On A Ban List By Mistake first appeared on Bored Panda.