Sexualizing Kids at the Library
While our substack normally focuses on topics related to gender ideology and the book at the center of this article does not contain such content, this article covers a related situation of concern that we have been seeing more and more of recently – the sexualization of children by trusted public institutions, and the pushback against parents who try to stop it.
In June 2022, a mom signed up her 14-year old daughter for a summer reading challenge at the Sunland-Tujunga Library, and her daughter received a presumed taxpayer-funded book for free as an incentive to participate in the program. The book was The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui. The mom was concerned about some language and content in the book. She said that the book had been given to her daughter without warning of inappropriate adult content. Fortunately she was able to review the book at home before her daughter read it. Subsequently, the parent looked into the children’s programs at the library where her daughter had been given the free book, and discovered that there had also been a summer read-aloud with the same book for children ages 10-19:
Specific concerns regarding the content of the book include:
A young child being told by an adult, "I WANT TO EAT YOUR PUSSY”
Images of naked female breasts
An image of children staring up at a poster of a naked woman
The father in the story tells his daughter, “‘It’s that PERVERT from across the street...He’s probably watching you through the WINDOW!’”
Profanity with members of a family saying to one another,"We’re such ASSHOLES!”
Discussion of “pimps,” “bar girls,” and “hookers”
Does this look like an appropriate read-aloud book for a 10 year old child?
A group of concerned parents went to the library and spoke to the head librarian, who defended his choice of book for a free book give-away. He said it was age-appropriate for teens and pre-teens, so he ordered 25 copies. He said the book was approved by people much higher than himself at the downtown Los Angeles Public Library.
Due to the urgency of age inappropriateness, the issue was taken up at the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council, the next level of city government where the library was located. The Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council then discussed the issue at a regularly-scheduled meeting. There a motion was proposed to send a formal letter to the head of the Los Angeles City Public Library to request that the book be appropriately placed in the adult section in all Los Angeles public libraries. In this context, adult refers to the general collection in the library, not the children’s section. It also means not distributing free copies to children and teens.
Public comment at the meeting about the motion to send the letter ranged from efforts to safeguard children within public institutions to accusations of book banning and censorship. The draft letter proposed at the meeting suggested reclassifying the book into an age-appropriate section, but those opposed to the letter equated the proposal to “book banning.” Two speakers stated that they were trained in library sciences and opposed censorship. Another commenter replied that this was not censorship, rather this was curation and classification. If librarians can’t do curation and classification based on something as simple as lewd language and sexual content, what exactly is their role?
Some commenters at the meeting said that the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council had no right to send a letter expressing concerns regarding children’s book programming in its local libraries. A proponent of the letter countered that one of the main functions of such legislative bodies is to provide feedback and oversight to other government organizations within their jurisdictions that are using public funds. In this case, the Sunland-Tujunga Public Library located in the Sunlund-Tujunga community utilized taxpayer funds for a free book giveaway and a children’s read aloud event.
The Council asserted in their presentation that the Los Angeles Public Library recommends this book for older teens and adults, and older teens are typically 18 and 19. The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center also states this book is for adult readers.
The proposal to send a formal letter to the LA City Public Library head resulted in a tie vote. Given that the council’s voting rule requires majority-plus-one to pass, the motion did not pass. And so the letter asking the Los Angeles Public Library to appropriately classify its children’s program books was not sent.
Following the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council meeting, the LA Daily News published an article by Elizabeth Chou titled, “Criticism of a graphic novel available to children in LA libraries is defended by officials.”
The article omitted key details about the citizens’ complaints, namely that the book:
contains an adult telling a child that he wanted to eat her pussy
includes the use of the word “perverts”
includes a family saying, “We’re such ASSHOLES!”
discusses and depicts “pimps,” “bar girls,” and “hookers”
Buried in the 14th paragraph of the article was the line, “The letter also cited pages that included profanity, sexually offensive language, nudity and ‘talk of pimps and hookers.’” The article included pictures from the book that highlighted core themes of war and trauma from the perspective of a vulnerable immigrant family, but did not show any of the controversial pictures reprinted above that depicted nudity, vulgar language, and adult content.
According to the article:
“City library officials released a statement in response to the neighborhood council vote, saying the library ‘offered and had great success with distributing copies of the book to teens and adults and holding a variety of programs centered around this book.’
“The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir,” the library statement said, is recommended for ages 13 and over, and that “the responsibility for the reading and viewing choices of children rests with parents and legal guardians.”
Parents, this is important: the Los Angeles City library officials are saying they will host children’s events, they will give your kids free books, and it’s your fault if they learn age-inappropriate content because you were the ones who made the decision to bring them to the library in the first place.
The LA Daily News article included a partial quote from the public comment period made by the concerned group of parents who call themselves Parents United for Happy & Healthy Kids. However, the partial quote included in the article was vague, and the article misrepresented the crux of parental complaints voiced at the meeting.
Community members who were frustrated at the misrepresentation of the issue in the article went to the LA Daily News Facebook page to express their disagreement. On the Facebook comments section, it said at the bottom, “Most relevant [comments are] selected, so some comments may have been filtered out.” At the time of the writing of this article, it states that there are seven comments on the Facebook link, but these authors are only able to view three of them, and one of the comments is someone asking why they can’t view most of the comments.
In the course of writing this article we discovered two additional library tidbits that parents reading this article may find helpful.
Library Tidbit 1: The Sunland-Tujunga librarian confirmed that it is city-wide policy that anyone can watch porn on library computers, even with children around, because it is an issue of First Amendment rights. Did you know that your tax dollars are helping local residents access porn on library computers, potentially in front of your children?
Library Tidbit 2: The Sunland-Tujunga librarian confirmed that any student can get a normal library card if the parent signs a one-time permission form. With that normal library card, they can check out anything they want from the library including R-rated books and movies. Apparently, because the parent signed the library card paperwork, the parent gives full permission for the child to access anything in the library.
To sum up, in the end nothing was done about the questionable books in the children’s section of Los Angeles public libraries, but the concerned parents were smeared in Facebook groups (one was called a “Christo-fascist”), on Reddit threads, and in the local newspaper.
If you do not approve of this behavior by your elected government representatives and the civil servants who work for you, then let your voice be heard. Vet every children’s program book and ask questions. These are not the libraries of your childhood. Get a group together and meet with your head librarian to let them know what you expect in terms of transparency from the library. Keep your kids away from the computer area, and keep them on a student library card that doesn’t permit them full access to library materials. Lastly, email those in charge and let them know what you think:
City Librarian John Szabo: <email@example.com>
Los Angeles Public Library Commissioners: <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sunland Tujunga Head Librarian: Ardem Tajerian <email@example.com>
– The Gender Identity K-12 Team