Conservatives turned Louisiana libraries into their battleground in 2022, with dozens of book challenges submitted in parishes across the state. Complaints were primarily concerned about titles for children and young adult with LGBTQ themes. (Piper Hutchinson/Louisiana Illuminator)
Conservatives turned Louisiana libraries into their battleground in 2022, with dozens of book challenges submitted in parishes across the state. Complaints were primarily concerned about titles for children and young adult with LGBTQ themes.
The Louisiana Illuminator requested copies of challenges submitted last year to libraries in all 64 parishes. Most responded and the vast majority said they did not receive any requests to remove books from their shelves.
Only five parish libraries reported that they received requests to remove books or relocate them: Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Livingston and St. Tammany Parishes.
St. Tammany received the most challenges, with more than 150 requests filed.
This analysis includes eight books Livingston Parish Library Board of Control member Erin Sandefur mentioned at a July board meeting but were not officially challenged. Sandefur said she planned to submit reconsideration requests.
Most challenged books
More than 100 books were targeted for removal or relocation to an adults-only section. These six books received the most challenges, though the most any single book received was four.
“Flamer” by Mike Curato (4 challenges)
“Flamer” is a semi-autobiographical graphic novel for young adults about Curato’s experiences growing up gay.
One challenge, filed by St. Tammany resident Jacki Schneider, argued the book should be removed because “it promotes sexual activities and violence to our young people.”
“Its contents are pornographic,” Schneider added.
“Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe (4 challenges)
“Gender Queer” is an autobiographical novel about Kobabe’s journey with gender identity and sexual orientation. The book was the most challenged book in the United States in 2021, according to the American Library Association.
Connie Phillips, leader of the St. Tammany Parish Library Accountability Project, a conservative activist group, challenged the book. She argued it violates state obscenity laws.
“Sex is a Funny Word” by Cory Silverberg (4 challenges)
“Sex is a Funny Word” is a comic designed to teach children about bodies, gender and sexuality. The book is illustrated by Fiona Smyth.
St. Tammany resident Frances W. Smith challenged the book, writing “Sex is not a funny word… It can be used to comprimise [sic] people, seduce young children and totally mess with their minds for the rest of their lives.”
Smith added that she doesn’t believe it’s necessary to teach young children about the topic.
“Almost Perfect” by Brian Katcher (3 challenges)
“Almost Perfect” is a young adult novel about a transgender teenager.
Contacted by the Illuminator for comment, Katcher said in a statement he thinks his book is frequently targeted because he won the Stonewall Children’s Book Award, given by the American Library Association for LGBTQ books.
“I would almost wager that’s how I made the hit list,” Katcher said. “Not because a group of concerned citizens read ‘Almost Perfect’ and felt it was inappropriate, but because the title came up in a web search.
“I wonder how a transgender teen would feel, knowing people thought their sexuality and gender identity was something that needed to be censored,” Katcher added.
“Jay’s Gay Agenda” by Jason June (3 challenges)
“Jay’s Gay Agenda” is a young adult romance novel about a gay high school student.
“The book was so stereotypical of what ‘gay’ is,” Schneider wrote in a challenge. “Then to focus on the various religions in regards to his ‘gayness’ was unnecessary.”
“Tricks” by Ellen Hopkins (3 challenges)
“Tricks” is a young adult novel about a group of troubled teenagers. It touches on themes of sex and drug use.
St. Tammany resident Rosalind Murr challenged the book, arguing that it breaks laws about child obscenity.
Most challenged authors
A review of library records revealed 92 authors were subject to challenges. Three authors were the most frequent targets.
Hopkins received 14 challenges to nine books, making her the most challenged author in Louisiana. Complainants challenged that her works, many of which are classified as young adult novels, are too sexual for minors.
“Many of those complaining don’t even have children in the districts where they’re lodging their complaints,” Hopkins said in a statement to the Illuminator. “Most haven’t even read the books. They find them on cultivated lists, along with the “reasons” to pull them.”
“The current wave of book banning/censorship is a well organized political movement that has little to do with worry about our children,” Hopkins added.
Maas received 10 challenges to six of her books, primarily those in the “A Court of Throne and Roses” series. The challenges argued that the books are too mature for minors.
Hoover received six challenges to five of her books. Complaints about Hoover’s books, all filed in St. Tammany Parish, appear to have been copy and pasted. The form submitted for each book states the same reason for the challenge: “It is obscene. Children should not be allowed to read it. Goes against the Law.”
Other authors who received multiple challenges include Mike Curato and Maia Kobabe, who each received four challenges to their LGBTQ graphic novels, and Heather Corinna, Isabella Rotman, Jason June, Lauren Myracle and Brian Katcher, who each received three challenges.
SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.