Book removal request denied by PWPL board

A large crowd attends the Peter White Public Library Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday. On the agenda was a challenge to a book titled “This Book is Gay” which critics say discusses sexual matters in a way that is inappropriate for teenagers, as the book is in the young adult section of the library. (Journal photo by Randy Crouch)

MARQUETTE — A large crowd of residents were in attendance during the Peter White Public Library Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday to discuss a request to remove a book from circulation at the library due to a complaint from a patron on the grounds that the book contained information of a sexual nature.

The PWPL Board of Trustees voted unanimously to keep the book in circulation in the Marquette library.

“To me, there is a larger issue than this book. I do not now, and I never will, support a ban of any book. My attitudes and values are not more important than anyone else’s. I believe that everyone has a right to intellectual freedom and freedom of speech and I will not interfere with that regardless of the topic any book might have,” said Trustee Carol Steinhaus. “I believe that it is important that we on the board represent our constituency. I received several phone calls and emails this weekend about this meeting and every single one of them urged me to vote against banning any book.”

The book in question, “This Book is Gay” by Juno Dawson, is described as an education book that caters to those in the LGBTQ+ community. Dawson, a transgender woman, published the book in 2015 to mostly critical acclaim and has been featured on many top-10 book lists.

More than 20 individuals spoke during the meeting, all in opposition of removing the book from circulation.

“Removing and banning books from public libraries is a slippery slope to government censorship and the erosion of our country’s commitment to freedom of expression,” said Priscilla Burnham of the League of Women Voters of Marquette County. “The library staff, operating under the standards of the American Library Association, are trusted to make professional decisions about selection, organization, preservation and dissemination of resources, services and technology without political interference.”

Dawson’s book is split into 12 sections, each section focuses on specific topics that apply to LGBTQ+ individuals, including chapters on homophobia, stereotypes and advice for individuals who want to come out to friends and family.

Critics of the book say that much of the content in “This Book is Gay” is graphic and overtly sexual and shouldn’t be geared towards those under the age of 18.

This isn’t the first time that “This Book is Gay” has been challenged in public libraries, with previous challenges coming in states such as Alaska, Ohio and Wyoming, with it being outright banned in a Utah school district. The American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom ranks “This Book is Gay” as the 10th-most banned and challenged book currently in the United States.

While much of the book is described as advice for LGBTQ+ people, certain chapters are often pointed to by critics, including the ninth chapter of the book “The Ins-and-Outs of Gay Sex,” which is written as a sex education piece that discusses sex, while also promoting safe sex and providing information about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.


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