Controversial book under review

Gender and sexuality-focused book temporarily pulled from high school library

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A book titled “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” by nonbinary author Maia Kobabe, has come under fire in the Connetquot School District with parents asking administration to take the book out of circulation at Connetquot High School.

Since then, the district has provided the following statement: “As per Board of Education policy, if a piece of literature housed in one of our school libraries is challenged by a parent/guardian based on content, the selection is temporarily removed from circulation pending review by a committee. Recently, the district received such a request for the book ‘Gender Queer,’ which is in the high school’s Library Media Center’s collection. The review process is currently ongoing.”

Connetquot School District was asked how long the review process can take and what members of the administration and/or faculty were on the committee to review, but did not respond to Suffolk County News by time of print.

Jacquelyn DiLorenzo, a Bohemia native and mother, who opposes the book’s inclusion in the high school library said, “The book in question has mature content that shouldn’t be made so available to minors.  The content should be discussed with a parent or guardian before a child has access to it.  A school library bypasses the step when there is parental input and the opportunity for meaningful dialogue about its contents.”

Jenna Murphy, a Ronkonkoma resident who is in favor of the book being available to students at the high school library, said, “There is no reason to remove any book from a library shelf. Removing ‘Gender Queer’ should be no different. A school library, or any library, should be a place where any person can learn—learn anything, without judgment and without scorn or embarrassment. Nothing should be limited in a library and all libraries should be a safe place. My only wish is for anyone that wants to learn, can.”

The book has come into the national spotlight as one of 2021’s “most banned books” according to a report by NBC News, with its presence in schools being formally challenged in at least 11 states.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R-Texas) and Gov. Henry McMaster (R-South Carolina) referred to the book as “obscene” and “pornographic,” both strongly questioning “[how the] books ended up on school shelves.”

The book explores themes of identity and sexuality and has won awards from the American Library Association and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). The ALA’s annual Alex Award recognizes 10 books that were originally written for adults, but reverberate strongly with teenagers and other youth readers.

Kobabe, who uses gender-neutral Spivak pronouns e, em and eir, has stated in interviews that the graphic novel (a term meant to describe a comic-book style, not an adjective for the content), which was published in 2019, is meant to be a guide on gender identity, coming out, the “trauma of being nonbinary in a society that largely sees gender as man or woman.”

Most controversial about the graphic novel is a depiction of a character performing a sexual act on a character’s mock genitalia. The section in question features a bird’s-eye view and a side view of a sexual act in the panel. In another section of the graphic novel, the 14-year-old main character imagines a scene from Ancient Greece where an older man is depicted touching the genitalia of a seemingly much younger, masculine-presenting character.

To view “Gender Queer: A Memoir” in totality for the controversial scenes, it can be purchased at: https://www.amazon.com/Gender-Queer-Memoir-Maia-Kobabe/dp/1549304003.

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