Book ban jumps from public schools to private stores like Barnes & Noble

State delegate Tim Anderson wants to force Barnes & Noble to require parental consent for the book's sale

By Jon Skolnik

Published May 20, 2022 12:40PM (EDT)

Display of banned books or censored books at Books Inc independent bookstore in Alameda, California, October 16, 2021. (Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)
Display of banned books or censored books at Books Inc independent bookstore in Alameda, California, October 16, 2021. (Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

A book for a young adult audience that the American Library Association described as "the most banned book in the country," is now under scrutiny for rejection from bookshelves at private stores. 

A Republican Virginia state delegate has filed a lawsuit against the author and publisher of "Gender Queer," a book about the nonbinary and asexual experience, demanding the Barnes & Noble require parental consent before selling the book to minors. State delegate Tim Anderson and his client Tommy Altman, a state congressional candidate, said on Wednesday that "the Virginia Beach Circuit Court has found probable cause that the books 'Gender Queer' and 'A Court of Mist and Fury' are obscene to unrestricted viewing by minors," according to a Fox affiliate. "My client, Tommy Altman, has now directed my office to seek a restraining order against Barnes and Noble and Virginia Beach Schools to enjoin them from selling or loaning these books to minors without parent consent," Anderson wrote in a Facebook. "We are in a major fight. Suits like this can be filed all over Virginia. There are dozens of books. Hundreds of schools."

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On Monday, Virginia Beach City Public Schools officially banned "Gender Queer" from appearing on school shelves, alleging that the book contains sex acts that aren't suitable for children. 

Anderson told a CBS affiliate that "you don't have to learn about your sexuality by having illustration of two minors performing fellatio on each other. That's what Gender Queer has. It has two minors on there hands and knees performing fellatio and it's in vivid, graphic detail." 

Emily Klein, a manager at AFK Books & Records, a bookstore in Virginia, told the outlet that she will now require parental consent for the book's sale. 


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"If the book is explicitly rated 'mature,' we will require parental permission and have a parent present," she said. "We brought it in shortly after its release; then it sold out. Once we heard it was getting banned, we brought it back in because we wanted it to be accessible to the people,

According to Bookriot, neither book contains pornographic content. 

The restraining order originally stems from a complaint made earlier this month by Virginia Beach School Board Member Victoria Manning. Back in December, Manning told 10 On Your Side she was also scrutinizing the books "Good Trouble: Lessons from the Civil Rights Playbook" and "Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out.

RELATED: What's behind the right-wing book-ban frenzy? Big money, and a long-term plan

"Gender Queer," written by Maia Kobabe, is just the latest book to be banned across the country. Among those frequently targeted by school boards include "Lawn Boy" by Jonathan Evison; "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas; "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Sherman Alexie, and "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison. According to Pen America, over 1,100 books were banned between July 2021 and March 2022, with a third of the targeted works centering on the LGBTQ+ experience.


Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik is a staff writer at Salon. His work has appeared in Current Affairs, The Baffler, and The New York Daily News.

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Barnes & Noble Book Ban Brief Gender Queer