Arts and Culture

Carver library board declines to remove 'Gender Queer' from shelves

A person holds a sign that says love not hate, books not bans
Waconia resident Kris Worm holds up a sign reading “Love Not Hate! Books Not Bans!” during a public meeting in Chaska, Minn., on Tuesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

A Twin Cities metro library system has decided to keep a memoir told in graphic novel form on its shelves after a request to remove it. On Tuesday, the Carver County Library Board voted to keep “Gender Queer: A Memoir” available to check out after dozens of supporters of the book testified during a public hearing.

“It’s up to the parents to decide what their kids read,” Library Board President Charles Teh said.

Written and illustrated by Maia Kobabe, “Gender Queer” is at the top of the American Library Association's most challenged books list.

A room full of people
Advocate and Carver County resident Ellie Krug addresses the library board of advisors during a public meeting at the Carver County government center in Chaska, Minn., on Tuesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

The memoir describes Kobabe’s childhood, growing up in California and coming out to family and friends. Kobabe told NPR in an interview in January that when the book was published in 2019, “it was met with initially … this absolute wave of love and support. And the pushback didn't come until late 2021. And at that point, I think what mostly surprised me was the timing of it — and then also the level of it, and then following that, the longevity of it.”

At the library board meeting in Chaska, all of the around 25 people who spoke opposed banning the book. Library Director Jodi Edstrom also said at the meeting that everyone commenting via email was against banning “Gender Queer.”

“If you ban this book, they’ll be back for more books. I guarantee it,” said Ellie Krug, a Carver County resident and trans woman who spoke during the meeting.

A person wearing a mask stands at a podium
Ly Baumgardt a member of trans advocacy organization TIGERRS (Transgender, Intersex, Gender-Expansive Revolutionary Resources & Services) addresses the library board of advisors during a public meeting in Chaska, Minn., on Tuesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Erin Busse filed a complaint in July requesting the book be removed from the Waconia branch library. Edstrom said she denied the request based on library policies.

“It's providing another viewpoint on our shelves, certainly an important viewpoint. We have it housed in our Adult Nonfiction collection,” Edstrom said.

In August, Busse appealed the decision to the library board. She told the board keeping the book on shelves where children can find it is akin to “sexual grooming.”

A woman stands and watches people talk
Erin Busse, one of the people who brought the book’s removal request to the board at last month’s meeting, listens to community members speak in favor of keeping “Gender Queer: a Memoir” in the library’s catalog during a meeting in Chaska, Minn., on Tuesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

The board had decided to push back the vote so they could all read the book.

“I'm not someone who will ban a book. I won't ban much of anything,” said board member Frank Foss. “I was amazed at how touching I found the book.”

Busse stood in the back of the meeting and did not testify, leaving before the vote was cast while library board president Teh was speaking. Attempts by MPR News to reach Busse before the meeting were not successful.

A woman sits and listens
Ann Elise Boll of Waconia listens as community members speak in support of keeping “Gender Queer: a Memoir” in the Carver County library catalog during a library board of advisors meeting in Chaska, Minn., on Tuesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News
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