A total of 33 library books have been challenged in Spotsylvania County schools so far this year.
The titles that have been most recently challenged by a group of parents under the school division’s policy for the reconsideration of instructional material are “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” by Gregory Maguire; “Living Dead Girl” by Elizabeth Scott; “Last Night at the Telegraph Club” by Malinda Lo; “The Nowhere Girls” by Amy Reed; “Crank” and “Collateral” by Ellen Hopkins; “Shine” by Lauren Myracle; “Damsel” by Elana K. Arnold; “Chosen” by PC Cast; “All the Things We Do in the Dark” by Saundra Mitchell; “Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda” by JP Stassen and “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi.
Several of the challenged books—those by Lo, Reed, Myracle and Mitchell—feature the experience of LGBTQ+ characters. Reed, Mitchell and Scott’s books deal with sexual assault. Hopkins’s “Crank” is loosely based on her daughter’s experience with methamphetamine addiction.
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“Homegoing” was the 2016 winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for American fiction and it follows two Ghanaian half-sisters—one of whom is sold into slavery in America while the other marries the British governor in charge—and their descendants through generations of enslavement, colonialism and racism.
“Deogratias” is a graphic novel set before, during and after the Rwandan genocide.
Of the 33 total challenges, all but five are still in the reconsideration process, school division spokesperson Jon Russell said.
Those five have been removed from school libraries. The decision to remove four of them—”Red, White, and Royal Blue” by Casey McQuiston, “Anatomy of a Single Girl” and “Anatomy of a Boyfriend” by Daria Snadowsky and “Boy Toy” by Barry Lyga—was “school -based” and the books were never reviewed by a committee, Russell said.
“Red Hood” by Elana Arnold was reviewed by a committee made up of parents, staff and community members, which determined that it was not appropriate for school libraries.
Committees also reviewed the first eight books that were challenged—“SOLD” by Patricia McCormick, “Like a Love Story” by Abdi Nazemian, “America” and “DIME” by ER Frank, “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Perez, “ All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson, “Beloved” by Toni Morrison and “Looking for Alaska” by John Green—and determined that all eight should stay in school libraries.
In each of those cases, the parents appealed the decision of the review panel to the superintendent and School Board.
It is not clear which of the other challenged books have been reviewed by the committee.
Other local school divisions have not experienced the same rate of book challenges. Stafford spokeswoman Sandra Osborn said that while library books continue to be reviewed per the School Board’s policy, “there have not been any challenges in the last year.”
Caroline spokeswoman Kimberly Young said the division has “had inquiries regarding select book titles that were not in our book circulation” but has not received any formal book challenges.
Adele Uphaus: 540/735-1973