‘Gay’ book dispute erupts at Wasilla Library

Wasilla city officials heard public testimony Monday night about a library book that is concerning some parents. The book, “This Book is Gay” was written by a U.K. author, James Dawson, and some parents say it is not appropriate content for the library’s young readers.  The dispute started earlier this month. this book is gay

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When one mother noticed her 10-year-old with a copy of  This Book is Gay in his hand, she was shocked. Vanessa Campbell told the Frontiersman newspaper the book contained graphic sexual descriptions, and has no place in the library’s juvenile nonfiction section.

This Book is Gay  is written for young readers, or any readers, grappling with questions about homosexuality. It’s tone is humorous, and it contains cartoons, but some  of the content explains sexual practices, and that is what concerns some Wasilla parents.

Campbell complained to library director K.J. Martin-Albright, but Martin-Albright, after review, decided not to move the book to another library area.

Campbell filed for reconsideration, a rarely used process, to get a change in what section of the library the book will be shelved. David Cheezum, owner of Palmer’s Fireside Books, is on the committee that will make that decision.

“I was just asked, you know, as someone with a literary insight, to take part in this ad hoc committee dealing with the challenge of the placement of this book.”

Cheezum says the library’s young readers section is close to the young adult section, so it was easy for a person younger than the book was intended for to stumble on it.

The committee met on the issue last week. Cheezum says a number of people showed up at the meeting ready to, in his words, “politicize” the meeting, but were turned away because it was not an advertised public meeting.

“When it became clear that that wasn’t the kind of meeting it was going to be, and they left, we had a really kind of inspiring discussion just because it was so open and honest, just the kind of discussion you would like to have when the politics was sort of taken away. But I wish the people who were politicizing it would just kind of wait a little more patiently for the results to be made public.”

At the Wasilla city council meeting this week, several residents spoke out against the book and it’s place on library shelves, although the issue was not on the agenda. The furor may be short-lived. Campell is not asking the library to ban the book, Cheezum says, just to move it to another section. And he says, the committee has some ideas in mind that people may like, although the decision won’t be out until next week.

Reviews of This Book is Gay proliferate online, and range from “absolutely hilarious” to kudos that the information is much needed by youngsters who may be struggling with sexual identity.  It contains chapters on bullying, dating, and at least one chapter explaining the ins and outs of gay sex. Pans of the book generally center on criticism that it focuses more on gay males than on gay females.

Asked if his store stocked copies of the book, Cheezum said, “not yet.”

“We don’t have it right at this moment, but we have a train shipment, so we will be getting it.”

Wasilla librarian Martin-Albright did not return calls for comment on this story.

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APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone. Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen

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