In an ongoing debate surrounding the appropriateness of literature available to minors, recent events have brought into focus the clash between the values of parents and the stance of certain libraries and media outlets.
“This book is gay” can be found in many school libraries. Here’s one example. Many parents that I spoke to, don’t want such materials in their child school library. We send our children to school for academics and not to read book on how to give “blowies”. pic.twitter.com/2CiowILBp3
— Kasia Williams (@KasiaLuza) September 9, 2023
A local Indiana newspaper, The South Bend Tribune, decided not to publish a controversial editorial featuring graphic content from a teen-oriented book, “This Book is Gay.” The paper Editorial Page Editor, Alesia I. Redding explained, “We’re not going to print these things… We don’t print those things in a family newspaper.”
The refusal by the newspaper to publish explicit material in its pages underscores a central point. Just as families don’t want such content in their newspapers, many parents and Americans, in general, argue that similar explicit material should not be readily available in the children’s sections of public libraries.
However, the editorial board of the same newspaper, consisting of Executive Editor Ismail Turay Jr. and Enterprise Editor Cory Havens, took a different stance. They defended Indiana’s St. Joe County Public Library for keeping “This Book is Gay” in the teen section.
Their editorial argued for political free speech and suggested that parents opposing the book may have underlying prejudices. Interestingly, the newspaper’s own stance becomes apparent when they refrained from including explicit content in their column, effectively treating the book no differently than any other teen literature.
This disconnect between their words and actions highlights the inherent challenge of discussing the book’s contents without direct quotations. The rejected editorial sought to provide clarity by presenting actual excerpts from “This Book is Gay.”
These excerpts included explicit passages on erotic acts, anatomy, and terminology, some of which one concerned mother had cited when asking the library to move the book to the adult section. There is even a section in the book that tells children how to download and use adult dating apps.
The controversy led the library’s board to reconsider its policy, although ultimately no significant changes were made. At a later meeting, impassioned library advocates, who responded to social media calls, dominated the event, challenging the concerned parents and stifling meaningful dialogue.
Parents’ concerns about exposing their children to explicit content in libraries that serve minors are not unfounded. They argue for reasonable limits to protect children from early exposure to adult content. However, they faced unexpected opposition from activists who advocate for unlimited access to explicit content, even for minors.
These activists labeled concerned parents as “book banners” and stifled their voices during library board meetings. In the midst of this clash, it’s important to remember that the debate isn’t about censoring books or restricting access to literature.
Instead, it revolves around finding a balance between protecting children from explicit content and respecting the principles of free speech. Ultimately, the ongoing discussion highlights a stark difference in values between those who believe in setting limits on obscenity to protect children and those who argue for unrestricted access, even for minors.