Public Schools

In Alabama, a book for children came under review – because of the author’s last name

  Rob Boston

The wave of book banning sweeping the country long ago lurched into alarming territory. Now it’s becoming absurd as well.

In Alabama, a book for children about two siblings who read to each other and build a doghouse was flagged as potentially “sexually explicit” because – wait for it – the author’s last name is “Gay.”

The book, Read Me a Story, Stella, by Marie-Louise Gay, was on a list of 233 titles to be reviewed and possibly removed from the collection or moved to another part of the library at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library, reported the news site

Mistakes were made

Library officials admitted that a mistake was made. The system’s executive director, Cindy Hewitt, told the news site, “Obviously, we’re not going to touch that book for any reason.”

Why are library books being reviewed in the first place? It’s because a group called Clean Up Alabama has targeted 102 books it insists are sexually explicit. Read Me a Story, Stella was not on the list, but library officials, perhaps in a misguided attempt to be proactive, began reviewing titles on their own.

The Madison branch created a list of 233 books and asked librarians to examine them. confirmed that 91% of the books on the list had words like “lesbian,” “gay,” “transgender,” “gender identity” and “or gender non-conforming” in the subject headers that list what the books are about. This crude screen likely explains how Gay’s book got on the list.

Librarians strike back

Some librarians refused to participate. Alyx Kim-Yohn, a circulation manager at the Madison branch, blasted the process, telling, “Why are we just unilaterally moving all of this before anyone’s even complained about these books yet?”

Thankfully, the review process was halted after community members complained that the list of targeted tomes was heavily slanted toward titles with LGBTQ+ characters and themes.

We can be sure that the religious extremists who started all of this will be back. Alabama’s librarians need to be ready for them. This time, instead of “reviewing” titles that Christian Nationalists don’t want us to see, they should do what librarians do best: defend the right to read and learn.


Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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