Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of literary freedom and a condemnation of censorship, will be held between September 23 and September 29 this year with the theme “Banning Books Silences Stories.”
Three pastors in Maine, however, apparently took that theme more as an invitation than as a warning and wrote a letter to a local public library demanding the removal of a Banned Books Week display featuring LGBT-centric books (and, ironically, Fahrenheit 451).
In effect, these men of the cloth tried to re-ban already-banned books.
Dan Pearson, pastor of the Rumford Baptist Church; Justin Thacker, pastor of Praise Assembly of God.; and Rev. Nathan March of Parish of the Holy Savior sent the letter to the administration of the Rumford Public Library earlier this month.
“We have become aware of displays that we do not believe are appropriate for a public library serving the families and people of the River Valley Area,” they wrote. “A number of the books in the display were promoting homosexuality, such as the book Two Boys Kissing and others. It should be held without doubt or dissension that a public library should be promoting values that contribute to the community and should not be promoting a certain religious view, set of morals or political view over and against another.”
The letter also calls the acceptance of homosexuality a “far left political view” and asserts the “traditional bible Christian [religion]” finds homosexuality “offensive.”
Mainers! Three men (local church leaders) are petitioning the Rumford Library board to have all books with homosexuals…
At subsequent community meeting — at which the message from the 70-strong audience “was one of acceptance and diversity,” the Rumford Falls Times reports — Pearson apologized for “some of the wording in the letter” and said he “did not want to alienate the gay community.”
Library employee (and new queer hero) Mary Ann Fournier wondered why the pastors didn’t complain about her Pride Month display in June. “You want me to hide the LGBTQ books that are like bibles to some of these children,” she told the haters. “Some of these books are stolen by some of these LGBTQ teens because they don’t want their parents to know they’re checking them out.”
In the end, the trustees unanimously voted to keep the display standing. Chairwoman Carolyn Kennard said, “By moving that [display], it would be a form of censorship that we cannot do, under any circumstance.”
In celebration of the trustees’ decision and of Banned Book Week, here are 10 of the LGBT-inclusive titles named in the American Library Association’s Top 10 Most Challenged Books list in recent years.
1. Drama, written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeir
This 2012 graphic novel follows the motley production crew of a middle school’s drama department. It won a Stonewall Book Award but has been banned in multiple schools in Texas.
2. George, written by Alex Gino
The lead character in this 2015 children’s novel is a fourth grader who comes out as transgender after she auditions for Charlotte in her school’s production of Charlotte’s Web. It too won a Stonewall Book Award, but a Family Research Council claimed it would “create greater confusion” among kids.
3. And Tango Makes Three, written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole
Two male penguins create a family together in this 2005 children’s book, a Lambda Literary Award finalist that landed in the middle of censorship debates in Massachusetts and Missouri.
4. I Am Jazz, written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
Jazz Jennings, star of a TLC reality show by the same name, co-wrote this 2013 children’s book about her experience as a trans teen. The ALA says it was challenged because “it addresses gender identity.”
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"The good thing about human progress is that it tends to move in one direction, and even a fool who looks at the difference between a hundred years ago and now can see which direction that is. Moves like an arrow, feels like an equal sign." ??? #twoboyskissing #SimonSaysStickers
5. Two Boys Kissing, written by David Levithan
This 2013 YA novel follows two teenage boys who try to break the Guinness world record for the longest kiss. Per the ALA, it was challenged because the cover bears a photo of — surprise, surprise — two boys kissing.
6. This One Summer, written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
The mere inclusion of LGBT characters was enough for folks to challenge this 2014 graphic novel, a tale of two pre-teen friends coming of age at their annual summer trip to a beach town.
7. Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
A YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction nominee, this 2014 nonfiction book profiles six transgender or gender-neutral young adults before, during, and after their comings-out. Some of those who challenged the book deemed it “anti-family.”
8. Revolutionary Voices, edited by Amy Sonnie
Billed as a Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology, this 2000 book “celebrates the hues and harmonies of the future of gay and lesbian society” through prose, poetry, art, letters, and other narrative forms. It ranked in the Top 10 Most Challenged Books list a full decade after its publication.
9. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
Two guinea pigs get married in this 2008 children’s book, and the niece of one of the grooms worries she won’t be his favorite anymore. The book was challenged because, well, “homosexuality.”
10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, written by Stephen Chbosky
A gay teen named Patrick is but a supporting character in this 1999 novel about a teen navigating freshman year at a Pittsburgh-area high school, but Chbosky said it had been banned in various schools in Massachusetts and New York.
Well, our Goodreads list just got longer! For more information on Banned Books Week, head to the official website.