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Missouri school board to vote on banning another book for sexual content

Blythe Bernhard, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in News & Features

ST. LOUIS — Months after causing a national uproar with its first book ban, the Wentzville School Board is expected to vote Thursday on a recommendation to yank another acclaimed book from school libraries.

The school district's review committee voted 5-4 to pull the comic memoir "Fun Home" by Alison Bechdel, citing graphic illustrations of sexual activity.

"I stand by my initial decision to purchase this title. … However, based on my professional opinion and 18 years as a teacher in the WSD, I would have chosen to remove this book from our collection had I read it myself," a committee member identified as the Liberty High School librarian commented in the recommendation. "I do not believe the pictures of sex are appropriate for our students."

"Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic" is the 2006 memoir of Bechdel's relationship with her father, who she learned was gay after coming out herself. The book was adapted to a Tony Award-winning musical and frequently lands on banned book lists.

The Library Journal recommends "Fun Home" for older teens, and the American Library Association calls it an “outstanding book for the college bound," the librarian said.

Washington University in St. Louis said last month that it would honor Bechdel with its 2022 International Humanities Prize, which will be presented in November along with $25,000.

“Alison Bechdel is one of the preeminent cartoonists of the 21st century,” said professor Rebecca Wanzo, in a statement announcing the prize. “Her work invites conversations about sexuality, trauma, medium and genre, women in the academy, place and childhood."

About "Fun Home," Wanzo said, “Its instant status as a classic speaks to the number of fields it touches — art, queer studies, literary studies, theater and, of course, comics studies.”

The Wentzville School Board is also set to vote on three other challenged books — “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson, “Heavy” by Kiese Laymon and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison. The review committee voted unanimously to retain all three books on library shelves.

 

All of the books were challenged by parent Amber Crawford for examples of sexual content.

In January, the School Board banned Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" from school libraries, attracting national media attention and a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the ACLU on behalf of two students.

The board reversed its decision a month later, returning the book to high school shelves.

Two of the board members who voted to ban the book, Sandy Garber and Dale Schaper, were defeated in the April election.

Earlier this month, Wentzville lost its effort to dismiss the ACLU's lawsuit, which also involves the district's policy of removing books when they are challenged.

This year has seen the most book challenges in school districts across the U.S., according to the American Library Association, which has tracked the issue for decades.

Nearly 1,600 books have been pulled from school libraries or classrooms this school year, according to the nonprofit PEN America, compared to about 300 challenges or bans in previous years. Most of the targeted books feature LGBTQ or Black characters or themes.

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©2022 STLtoday.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
 

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