Editorial: In Roanoke Valley, dodging arguments by making books disappear | Editorial

We have in our possession an object so powerful that at least one school system in Roanoke Valley has taken great care to ensure that no elementary school student can get their hands on it without doing anything and put themselves in danger.

We’re naturally referring to the Stonewall Book Award-winning children’s picture book When Aidan Became a Brother, written by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita.

Published in 2019, this very sweet and slender volume tells the simple story of a boy named Aidan whose parents are about to have a second child. Aidan wants to be a good older brother but fears doing something wrong, until he realizes he knows how to love and that should be enough.

A parent’s complaint in November led to the removal of “When Aidan Became a Brother” from the Herman L. Horn Elementary School library. Although three Roanoke County School District librarians who reviewed the application decided the book should remain in circulation, an appeal panel of three community members overruled them, and now Aidan cannot be read. and his family only after checking elementary Horn’s book. guide office.

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The aspect that placed Aidan’s story in the jail of the Roanoke County Public Schools Guidance Office is that Aidan is a transgender boy, accepted by his parents and school friends.

Author Lukoff, a transgender man, worked as a school librarian before becoming a full-time writer.

In his author’s note at the end of the book, he explains that he wrote this story for transgender children, or any child who might otherwise feel like they don’t fit in, that it could grow to help create a world that supports them and believes in them.

He dedicates the book “To those who came before me, to those who climbed with me, and to those who will climb after me”.

Disappearing BooksPublishers Weekly review states that “the creators’ exploration of a transgender child’s experience underscores the importance of learning ‘how to love someone for exactly who they are’.” It is recommended for ages 5 to 8.

In theory, it might well be understandable that some parents – not all, but some – would feel uncomfortable explaining what “transgender” means to their school-aged child if they hadn’t anticipated this. private conversation.

The parents’ complaint to Roanoke County Schools, acquired by Roanoke Times reporter Sam Wall through a Virginia Freedom of Information Act request, takes this imaginary concern to an extreme, arguing that encountering this book unsupervised could “traumatize” a child, and that no book on this topic should be stocked in elementary school libraries.

Roanoke County Public School officials have not confirmed whether the complaint against “Aidan” led to a proposed policy change on how books are added to the school’s collection. The additional requirements for reviewing new books create what a retired school librarian described as an “unreasonable” workload (“Officials eye changes to library policy,” May 29).

Even if Roanoke County’s new policy isn’t a direct result of this parental challenge, it doesn’t take much brain strain to figure out precisely what problem the school system is trying to avoid at the pass.

Across the country, conservative activists have demanded the removal of LGBTQ-themed and race-themed books from library shelves, often working from shared lists. In a truly saddening development, school districts of their own volition began preemptively removing targeted books before any angry complaints could be filed.

Pop bubblesHiding books won’t keep kids locked in thought-proof bubbles. At least the internet exists. Put blocks on it, kids know how to get around them. Even if the blockades succeed, there’s still the old-fashioned way to propagate controversial topics: peer chatter at school.

When it comes to transgender issues, at least, Lukoff’s book could serve as a tool to approach the subject in a knowledgeable, healthy, and positive way, should a parent choose to do so.

On campaigns to remove books from public libraries: Freelance journalist Matt Taibbi notes the irony that the same conservatives who complain their views are being silenced by the “woke left” are wasting an opportunity to seize high morality of freedom of expression.

In a recent essay with the blunt title “Democrats and Republicans have one thing in common: Both suck for free speech,” Taibbi argues that Republicans, who in the past have embraced censorship campaigns, have good reason to step back and set a better example. .

“This scenario should have been reversed once campuses, the executive ranks of internet companies, and federal agencies like Joe Biden’s CDC began pushing increasingly draconian concepts of censorship to ‘distort’ right-wing ideas. or conservative,” Taibbi wrote. “Instead, after spending years in the political wilderness stewing over the issue, the red response to the left’s new censorship has often come via unoriginal and equally clumsy attempts at legislative bans.”

Of course, this does not stop at legislative prohibitions. Consider the Virginia Beach case (May 23 editorial, “Is Virginia for book censors?”) in which two Republican politicians seek to use the courts to have a pair of books declared obscene so that restrictions can be imposed on booksellers who sell them.

Those of a certain age who remember the days of Satanic Panic and the Parents Music Resource Center know that nothing draws more attention to a creative work than a campaign of public censure.

For anyone who may have become newly curious about “When Aidan Became a Brother,” but feels intimidated by the prospect of calling Horn Elementary to request the book from the guidance office, you’re in luck. . A Google search reveals dozens of videos from Lukoff and Juanita’s book being read aloud, sometimes to celebrate Pride Month – which is this month. Watching or sharing these videos could be a small way to join in the celebration.

Colin L. Johnson