An Author's Book Was Flagged For Banning Just Because Of Her "Controversial" Last Name
The picture book caused a stir at an Alabama library.
An Alabama library had an interesting addition in their book review list when a children’s picture book was put on a list of potential books that needed to be removed from the children’s section and put into the adult section.
Marie-Louise Gay, an award-winning Canadian author and illustrator of picture books was placed on a list of potentially “sexually explicit” books that needed to be reviewed and possibly moved to the adult section. However, the content of her books had nothing to do with it. The book was placed on the list because of her last name — Gay.
AL.com reported that Read Me a Story, Stella, a book about “a pair of siblings reading books together and building a doghouse,” ended up on the list at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library due to the writer's last name.
The library’s executive director, Cindy Hewitt, told AL.com that the word “gay” was one of the keyword triggers used to flag more than 200 books.
Hewitt said that the word was added as a “proactive” move to get ahead of what she predicts to be an “unprecedented” year of book challenges.
Hewitt added that the library system used a list compiled by Clean Up Alabama to guide its review process, and that keywords she'd asked branch managers to employ in search of books to potentially move included "sexuality," "gender," "sex," and "dating."
To be clear, Clean Up Alabama is problematic in and of itself with their mission statement noting that, “Alabama libraries have been stocking their shelves with books intended to confuse the children of our communities about sexuality and expose them to material that is inappropriate for them.”
However, the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library decides to review their books, Hewitt admitted that Gay's book shouldn't have been flagged at all.
"Obviously, we're not going to touch that book for any reason," she noted.
Other employees at the Alabama library aren’t exactly pleased that any books are being preemptively reviewed even before criticism had even been logged from the public.
“Why are we just unilaterally moving all of this before anyone's even complained about these books yet?” says Alyx Kim-Yohn, a circulation manager at the library system's Madison branch who refused to take part in the review process.
“The decision had been made,” Kim-Yohn added. “There was no debate.”
In 2022, book banning and challenging was more common than ever before.
According to a new report from the American Library Association (ALA), more than 1,200 book challenges were compiled by the association in 2022, nearly doubling the then-record total from 2021 and by far the most they’ve seen, the ALA has seen since they began keeping data 20 years ago.
According to CBS News, during the 2021-2022 school year, more than 1,600 books were banned from school libraries. 41% of those that were banned included LGBTQ themes, protagonists or prominent secondary characters. 40% of banned books included people of color.
Books with issues of race and racism (21%) and books with themes of rights and activism (10%) were also among those banned. About 22% of the books that were banned had sexual content. Biographies, autobiographies and stories about religious minorities are also on the list of banned books.
It’s mind-boggling that book banning efforts are at an all-time high when, according to a CBS News poll, more than eight in 10 Americans don't think books should be banned from schools for discussing race and criticizing U.S. history, for depicting slavery in the past, or, more broadly for political ideas they disagree with.
When libraries like the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library are preemptively scanning and prepping their libraries (using problematic guidelines) to oust or reshelf books that could potentially be an issue with book banning enthusiasts, what kind of standard are we setting?