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Children’s Book Added to Book Ban List Because Author’s Last Name Is ‘Gay’

Children’s Book Added to Book Ban List Because Author’s Last Name Is ‘Gay’

Image of Read Me a Story, Stella and a photo of library shelves
Groundwood Books; Shutterstock

The library’s executive director confirmed the book was listed because of the word “gay.”


The kid’s picture book Read Me a Story, Stella was added to a list of books that could contain sexually explicit material by a public library due to the author’s last name.


The Huntsville-Madison County Public Library in Madison, Ala., put the book by Marie-Louise Gay on a list of books to be removed from the children’s section, according to local outlet

Gay’s publicist at books publisher Groundwood Books, Kirsten Brassard, told the outlet that this was a first for Gay’s book.

“Although it is obviously laughable that our picture book shows up on their list of censored books simply because the author’s last name is Gay, the ridiculousness of that fact should not detract from the seriousness of the situation,” Brassard said in a statement to

She also pointed to other books that didn’t have LGBTQ+ themes such as Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, which is about the shooting of an unarmed young Black teen by police.

“This proves, as always, that censorship is never about limiting access to this book or that one. It is about sending the message to children that certain ideas—or even certain people—are not worthy of discussion or acknowledgement or consideration,” Brassard continued. “This is a hateful message in a place like a public library, where all children are meant to feel safe, and where their curiosity about the world is meant to be nurtured.”

There were 1,269 demands to censor library books and resources in the U.S. in 2022, according to the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom. That’s up from 729 in 2021 and the most since the group began keeping track more than 20 years ago. 2023 is on track to exceed 2022.

The majority of the books targeted for removal are either by or about LGBTQ+ people or people of color. Of the 13 most challenged books of 2022 (the ALA usually lists 10, but last year four tied for 10th place), seven had LGBTQ+ content, and several of the others dealt with people of color or were deemed by the challengers to be sexually explicit.

Related: How to Fight Book Bans, According to the American Library Association's Queer President

The library’s executive director confirmed the book was listed because of the word “gay.”

“Obviously, we’re not going to touch that book for any reason,” Cindy Hewitt said.

She told that she’d also read The Hate U Give and praised it. Hewitt explained they were not targeting LGBTQ-related books, but were trying to be “proactive instead of reactive.”

“We wanted to be proactive and allow our library staff to look at our collection and make decisions about moving material to an older age group and not have someone from outside dictating that for us,” Hewitt said, adding that the list they were using to do so was pulled from a group called Clean Up Alabama.

Read Me a Story, Stella is not on that list.

Related: There's Been a 33% Increase In Book Bans Across the U.S., Says PEN America

In its investigation, reports that a review of the list for the library found that more than 90 percent of the 233 books listed had titles that included the words lesbian, gay, transgender, gender identity, or gender non-conforming in the subject header.

A circulation manager at the library called the news “cosmically ironic” that this situation happened during Banned Books Week.

Alyx Kim-Yohn, who is queer, said they were upset because the library was ordered to move the books, not simply review them.

“The decision had been made,” Kim-Yohn said. “There was no debate. There’s no conversation. This is what was happening.”

They did not take part in moving the books, citing professional ethics.

“Why are we just unilaterally moving all of this before anyone’s even complained about these books yet?” Kim-Yohn asked.

“If you’re mad, what we need you to do is to come check these books out, come to story times, put in purchase requests for books that you want to see,” Kim-Yohn explained. “We need you to keep supporting the library.”

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