Librarians address locally challenged books

At a school board meeting on Sep. 23, FCPS suspended two books following complaints from parents.

The books, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison and Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, were temporarily removed from shelves days before Banned Books week. For librarians Krissy Ronan and Elizabeth Toledo, Banned Books week is a time for “[us] to expand our world view, but only if we have access to different books and learn different things because we’re all different people.”

“The whole thing is about freedom of information,” Toledo said. “Everybody should have access to whatever information they need or want to read, so banning books doesn’t make sense.”

The books have come under scrutiny due to a parent complaint about their sexual content. Toledo and Ronan said they believe a book’s audience should also be considered.

“Some kinds of books are appropriate for some audiences, and some aren’t,” Ronan said. “For example, a book you may read as a teenager may have content that’s a little too much for a younger person, but it’s not so much that it should be banned, I think it should be used thoughtfully.”

Ronan said the change of viewpoints over time is another reason to censor with caution.

“At different times, different ideas are considered more dangerous or more inappropriate, so books that may be banned or considered to be challenged at one point would not be either 20 years before or 20 years later,” she said.

The two challenged books contain LGBTQ+ themes, and critics of the ban say it is an attempt to silence the community. Ronan said she has noticed a pattern regarding which books are censored.

“The experiences that are othered are often experiences of people who identify in ways that are marginalized in our community and in our society, and I think that is really problematic,” Ronan said.

As election week approaches, the books have sparked a larger debate about parent involvement in school decisions, while students, teachers and families still await a decision.