Greenwich Library memoir sparks debate on social media


GREENWICH – Greenwich Library said it received “two messages of concern” about Maia Kobabe’s ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’, a young adult graphic novel on its shelves, even as publications on the social networks criticized the book and called for its deletion.

First draftsman Fred Camillo raised the issue in his weekly e-blast to residents on July 29, saying that “some residents are offended by a very graphic young adult book available in our library,” adding that “I personally found this book to be repulsive.”

In the graphic novel, Kobabe, who identifies as both non-binary and queer, recounts their experiences of personal identity. A graphic novel uses both words and images to tell a story, similar to a comic book. Kobabe wrote and illustrated his acclaimed memoir in 2019, which received the 2020 Alex Award from the American Library Association for its “special appeal” to readers aged 12 to 18.

“This heartfelt graphic memoir recounts, with sometimes painful honesty, the experience of growing up gender nonconforming,” Publisher’s Weekly said in a review. It would be “sure to spark valuable discussions at home and in classrooms” while noting the presence of “some sexually explicit content”.

Camillo said he learned of residents’ objections to the book on social media and pointed to an Instagram post about “Gender Queer” from the anonymous “Mask Choice Greenwich” account.

“So I’m not for banning books. I think that’s wrong. But, in my opinion, ‘Gender Queer’ should not be in the Young Adult Graphic Novels section of the Greenwich Library,” the post read.

People responded to the post saying the book’s presence in the library was ‘awful’ and ‘insanity’ and one even called it ‘child abuse’ while others asked “How did this get into our library?” and said “It should be removed from the library as soon as possible.”

However, another article noted the book’s critical acclaim and awards while pointing out that it was not in the children’s section, but for teens and young adults.

“Many parents found it helpful to read when their children came to them and told them they were non-binary or asexual,” the post read. “Not gay. Not straight. There is nothing ‘sexual’ in this book or porn.”

“Gender Queer” has also proven controversial in other communities. The American Library Association ranks it as the #1 most contested book of 2021, saying it was “banned, contested, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, and because it was deemed to contain sexually explicit imagery” .

In October 2021, Kobabe wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post about the controversial book ban in Fairfax County, Virginia, which led to bans in several other states.

“Young gay people are often forced to look outside of their homes and outside of the education system to find information about who they are. Removing or restricting queer books from libraries and schools is like cutting off a lifeline for young queer people, who may not even know yet what terms to ask Google to find out more about their own identity, their bodies and their health,” Kobabe said.

Despite social media posts, the library has not received an official request to remove the memoirs from its shelves.

The library has received “two messages of concern but no request for removal” of the graphic novel, said Kate Petrov, public relations manager at the Greenwich Library.

Camillo said in his e-blast that his office “does not oversee operations at the library” and said the manager and the Greenwich Library Board handle such complaints.

“There are thousands and thousands of books out there,” Camillo said. “There may be something that someone finds objectionable. So if there’s some merit to that, at least there’s a process. Rather than going online and getting people excited about this subject, people now know that there is a process and you can do it directly and talk with the library.

Under library policy, anyone objecting to a book can file a request for consideration, which is reviewed by the library manager and responded to in writing. The decision can be appealed to the Board of Directors, which has the final decision.

“The library is guided by the American Library Association’s Bill of Library Rights and Freedom to Read. The library recognizes that some resources may be controversial and that any given item may offend some people,” the policy states. “Only the individual can determine what is best for them. Parents, caregivers and legal guardians are responsible for their children’s use of library collections and Internet access via library computers.

Barbara Ormerod-Glynn, director of the Greenwich Library, further explained the policy.

“All of Greenwich Library’s collections are governed by its Collection Development Policy and materials cannot be removed from our collection without following this measured process,” Ormerod-Glynn said in a statement to Greenwich Time.

To the library’s knowledge, no review requests have been received “at least in the past 20 years,” Ormerod-Glynn said.

Camillo said Ormerod-Glynn was “very open” during their discussion last week.

“We all believe in free speech and we all want people to be exposed to different ideas, but obviously there’s a level of age appropriateness that needs to be taken into account,” Camillo said, adding that he felt some of the illustrations in the book were inappropriate. for 12 year olds.

“As adults, we protect children from things like alcohol and tobacco,” Camillo said, adding that adults also need to make sure children aren’t overwhelmed by materials they aren’t. not emotionally ready to understand.

“That’s why you always have age-appropriate orientation numbers,” he added.

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