Mrs. Donahue was my school librarian at Hardy Elementary School. She was kind and patient as she helped me find books such as “Where the Red Fern Grows,” just the right book for a 5th-grader to read. And she knew how to shush us in that warm but strict way that told us she wasn’t mean.

During my first few years as a mother, story time at the Cumberland Public Library was a highlight of the week, a 30-minute activity out of the house. The librarian of my children’s toddler and preschool years, Mrs. Haley, brought books such as “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” to life, and as our family grew, she was there to lead us to just the right books about tractors and elephants.

In recent weeks, I’ve been contemplating the departure from the age-appropriate books on Mrs. Donahue’s and Mrs. Haley’s shelves to the gender-obsessed, hyper-sexualized and even pornographic books pouring into schools and children’s sections of public libraries in the name of “diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Why is this happening?

We are seeing libraries as battlefields because activists have now gained significant influence inside the American Library Association, the nation’s largest association of librarians with revenues of about $17 million. The ALA publishes one of the most widely used “diversity” book lists, and school librarians and school officials use that list to buy books. Book “award” lists are another driver of school purchases and summer reading recommendations. Add in teacher preparation programs steeped in critical gender theory and, voila, taxpayers end up unwittingly funding ideologically-driven pornography in school libraries.

I am not clutching my pearls. These are not the days of protests over books such as author Judy Blume’s coming of age novels, “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret.” The books of concern today contain graphic sexual images and descriptions of sex between children, teens and even adults and minors. Some are graphic novels that look like comic strips. The content is pornographic and represents a disturbing agenda by activists that targets youth, hiding behind seemingly virtuous and innocuous words such as “diversity” and “inclusion.” Of course, we must welcome children of all identities in a library and there is a wide array of books that do just that. What we see in these books, however, is the dangerous sexual grooming of children.

One of the books that has outraged parents nationally and locally is “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe. It is so sexually graphic that I could not describe it in detail in a recent radio interview because of FCC guidelines. It is meant to be an autobiography about the author’s “journey of self-identity,” which, according to the description, includes “bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction.” When a parent in North Kingstown recently raised concerns to the superintendent, he defended the book in an email, likening it to Michelangelo’s art, The David, and contrasting it with Playboy magazine. He argued the author intended “to be concerned for the sexual health of those who are transgender and clearly not to be pornographic.”

The images speak for themselves, regardless of the author’s intent, and they are far more sexual than anything allowed in Playboy. Would the superintendent endorse a book such as this in the school library, displayed as prominently, if the book showed explicit images of boys and girls having sex? Most likely, never.

Images of sex acts, regardless of who is in them, are wildly inappropriate for a school library or classroom. There is no justification for having different rules around pornography and sexually explicit content based on the gender identity and sexual orientation of a book’s characters. They are out of bounds.

I am confident that Mrs. Donahue and Mrs. Haley would agree.

Sanzi is the director of outreach at Parents Defending Education and a former educator and school committee member. She writes at Sanzi.substack.com.

(32) comments

Ethan Shorey Staff
Ethan Shorey

Comments for this post have been turned off.

drberg001

While I attempt to recreate my initial comments, I would like to share the words of the author of the book that has so offended Ms. Sanzi and the small-minded bigots who have spent their time on this page praising her nastiness.

"Qu--r youth are often forced to look outside their own homes, and outside the education system, to find information on who they are. Removing or restricting qu--r books in libraries and schools is like cutting a lifeline for qu--r youth, who might not yet even know what terms to ask Google to find out more about their own identities, bodies and health."

Maia Kobabe's words can be read in full in the Washington Post. I highly suggest looking up the article, which cannot be linked as it seems the Breeze deems the very title of the book profanity, something I find illustrative of the paper's failings in this matter. Q u e e r is not profanity, and I am appalled to discover that those who moderate this website deem it to be so.

I sincerely doubt any of the people commenting on this page have taken the time to read the book they are spending so much time mischaracterizing. I can only assume ignorance in the case of many of these commentors. But I am certain that hateful individuals like Ms. Sanzi are fully aware that the book she is railing against is not meant to titilate but to educate and comfort, and that her continued use of the word "child" is a misdirection, if not an absolute lie.

I question the standards of the Breeze that they continually publish Ms. Sanzi's ravings, especially as they cover the efforts of those in certain towns to make space for and include LGBTQ citizens. Surely we are above promoting homophobic and transphobic lies in this day and age?

CumberlandParent

It is so refreshing to see that there are other people who are seeing Ms. Sanzi for who she is and the agenda she has been pushing for the past year in the Valley Breeze, on Fox News, Twitter, and more.

Lincoln247

It is so refreshing to read a comment from CumberlandParent without references to skin color and other forms of divisiveness.

Lincoln247

I read all these comments. No one suggested "cutting a lifeline" or banning all books on these topics.

The suggestions were to raise the standards.

That is not "bigotry." That is decency.

As a community that pays for public education, we have that right to weigh in on what is acceptable and what isn't.

Captain Cumberland

The American Library Association publishes an annual list of the most challenged books in school libraries. 8 of the top 10 books featured LGBTQ characters. One of the protested books "And Tango Makes Three", is about two male penguins adopting an egg to create a family in a zoo. It has no content that could be misconstrued as pornographic or indecent, and yet makes the list. Of course this is bigotry.

These books are not part of any curriculum. No one is forcing anyone to read them. If you don't want your child to read them then tell them so, but don't tell others that they are not allowed to.

And yes, tax dollars pay for library books. They also pay for public roads. I do not use all roads in town, but I would still like them to be available to those that need them.

Pauline M Demers

Ms. Sanzi----Congratulations on a great article. It truly depicts what's happening to today's children. Children are being used to promote and support the Socialists' Agenda which is permeating our society. Their “anything-goes” views and attitude are ruining America! Yes, I'm from the “Old School”, but give me the “Old School” any day. At least, we were civil towards each other. AMEN!

[thumbup]

P

Gotta love when an 82 year old claims to know what is going on with "today's children.

drberg001

I find it hard to believe that someone who ardently supported Donald Trump can be overly concerned with civility. Please, spare us, Ms. Demers.

drberg001

Several of my comments on this page have been screened since I posted them last night.

drberg001

I have been waiting for the Breeze to unscreen my comments, both of which I know were successfully posted and contained no vulgarities, for over a day now. It is disappointing that dissenting opinions are being stifled on this post.

CumberlandParent

I am eager to read your comments that explain how ridiculous it is that Ms. Sanzi is trying to limit access to literature because it doesn't fit with her agenda. The last administration gave people like her the ability to share their white, straight, Christian nationalist agenda without rebuke and gave fuel to their backwards beliefs. Now, she and her Koch brothers funded organization are trying to push their ideals on our children and I am not having it. If she wants to keep a narrow scope of view for her children, homeschool them. The rest of us with children in the public education system should be allowed to have our children taught the truth about this country, taught about inclusivity, and learn to be empathetic individuals. Her push to eliminate that is appalling.

Captain Cumberland

The Trevor Project is a nonprofit organization founded in 1998 that focuses on suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth. Last May they released the results of their third annual National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. 19.0% of LGBTQ youth ages 13–18 and 8.3% of LGBTQ youth ages 19–24 reported attempting suicide in the past year (712,990 LGBTQ suicide attempts between the ages of 13–24). 52% of all transgender and nonbinary young people in the U.S. seriously contemplated killing themselves in 2020. More than half thought it would be better to be dead, rather than trying to live with rejection, isolation, loneliness, bullying, and being targeted by politicians and activists pushing anti-trans legislation.

Ms. Sanzi says to disregard the author's intent, but the intent is actually pretty important. The book was written to educate young LGBTQ people who are in a similar situation and to help them understand that someone else has also gone through what they are going through, hopefully so that they feel less alone and isolated.

Lincoln247

Good point. The Trevor Project offers exactly what LGBTQ youth need without the need to house lewd and inappropriate images in our schools. We should offer information on legitimate and certified support groups for those kids who seek it, while retaining higher standards to guard against such ideologically driven controversial books.

I never heard of someone killing themselves for being "targeted by politicians and activists." I think that is more of a personal statement, than a relevant fact.

I am also not sure how providing distasteful books addresses the suicide rate, or addresses any of those signs of depression. Perhaps our teachers shouldn't pretend to be Psychologists.

Captain Cumberland

Here is an example of politicians and activists pushing anti-trans legislation relating to LGBTQ youth suicide. According to the Trevor Project calls to its suicide prevention hotline from transgender young people rose from 7.3 percent to 17.5 percent in the 24 hours following then-President Donald Trump’s tweet in 2017 that he would ban transgender people from the military.

drberg001

The Trevor Project is ONE resource, and one which doesn't replace the need for LGBTQ literature's inclusion in our libraries. LGBTQ students deserve a library that serves them, and they deserve accessible content. Not to mention this literature has value to *all* students, all of whom will have similar questions as they grow up. By removing books dealing with these topics, you are doing a disservice to *all* students.

"Distasteful" is your opinion. You and those who share it are welcome to avoid the book, and keep your child from reading it. But you are not entitled to impose your opinion onto others who may find answers, and *solace* in the title.

Lincoln247

The military bans obese people, and once banned others with flat feet. There are also many valid medical reasons to keep people out of the military. What makes trans people special? It seems to me there is a vested interest in not admitting those individuals with depression and suicidal tendencies into our military and such a policy may actually have merit. After all, our military isn't a social experiment lab or playground for radical ideologies and emotional remedies. I don't regard sound policy as harassment.

P

Not all trans people are depressed or suicidal. Captain referred to an action that the President took to ban all trans people, and then you conflated that with them all being depressed or suicidal. That's just wrong.

P

A couple things here. I would have thought that a column in the Valley Breeze would be for writing about things that affect readers of the Breeze, which is essentially people in the northeast part of the state. Yet, Erika seems to write about things that are happening in other places. Is this to stoke outrage among us? If there is something we could do about it or we were affected, I would understand that. But what is the point, writing about a book that appears in a school library in North Kingstown? Should we all go down there and demand that this be changed? Would you want people from other towns going to your schools and demanding change? I guess I don't understand what she is looking to do here.

I should also add that this book is not required reading or part of a curriculum. It sits on a shelf, available for students to read if they choose to. Or not read if they don't want to.

Second, while the images in the book may be surprising to some, the stated audience reading age for this book is 16+ years old. There is nothing in this book that a 16 year old hasn't seen before, whether you like that fact or now. Plus, this book is about the journey the author had in their own gender development and growth. It's a book that can help others who are going through the same thing, having the same thoughts. As the principal noted, the difference between education/art and pornography is that pornography is intended to stimulate erotic thoughts. The intent of this book is to educate. Now if some people see these images as pornography, and remember that pornography is intended to titillate and excite someone sexually, well you kind of just told on yourself.

Lincoln247

The Breeze columnists write about national, state, and local issues. In Rhode Island, North Kingston is not very far away. It is only a matter of time before radical ideology reaches our local schools. Like it or not, our jobs as parents, is to protect our kids. Our job as a community is to set standards that are acceptable to all, especially since we are all paying for this.

P

They write about national, state and local issues that affect us. A book on a shelf in North Kingstown does not affect us. This seems like an attempt to get people riled up and another TV appearance.

Treeman

"Images of sex acts, regardless of who is in them, are wildly inappropriate for a school library or classroom"

umm... did you have health class in high school?

CumberlandParent

Once again we have Ms. Sanzi and her right wing Parents Defending Education, Koch brothers funded group trying to push her ideals on our children. If you are that afraid of your children being exposed to a variety of literature, police what they read. Do not make your crusade to white-wash our society, avoid gender diversity, and much more impact what my child can read. Go spend your time talking to your fan base on Tucker Carlson while the rest of us rational parents take pride in our children being exposed to all sorts of different points of view, gender identities, racial backgrounds and history, sexual orientation, etc. If you want to shelter your children from the real world, that is on you. Those are the kids who rebel the most when they are out of their parents' home. Don't make choices for my child because you can't handle seeing progress.

Cincinnatus

You obviously have NOT viewed the book that Ms. Sanzi mentions. I took the time and viewed pages of it and it is filth. It is so disgusting that the Valley Breeze filters will not allow me to post links to it and will not allow me to copy and paste text from it. No one is "afraid" of being exposed to this - we're sickened by it. No one is trying to "white-wash" our society- we're exposing a radical agenda and folks like you hate when the truth is exposed. Please take a moment, view the book and then try and defend the passages I have mentioned in my original post. And, while you're at it, please defend the Loudon County, VA's policy on allowing boys to use girl's restrooms. The end result of that madness resulted in two rapes and resulted in the superintendent lying to the public. If you call this "progress", please keep your "progress" to yourself and homeschool your children with this filth. The rest of us will thank you for doing so.

Lincoln247

Let's not forget the "progress" achieved by the Rhode Island man, prentending to be a woman, videotaping young girls in the ladies restroom at Wrentham Village Outlets recently.

https://www.newsbreak.com/news/2409180911910/wrentham-police-arrest-man-for-secret-bathroom-recordings

CumberlandParent

I have not only viewed the book, I read it and wrote a paper on it for a graduate course in gender studies. I am fully aware of what is in the text and what the author's purpose was in writing the text. If you are too afraid to have your child exposed to multiple points of view and to learn to be accepting of all types of people, you are the one who should homeschool, not me. My children are getting a great education in an environment that is supportive of gender inclusivity, which Ms. Sanzi was against in a previous article under the guise of it keeping parents in the dark, and supportive of a variety of points of view on sexuality, race, gender, etc. Ms. Sanzi wants to bring us back to the 1950s when whites were the superior class and anyone who was different was shamed into not being themselves. That isn't the kind of person I want speaking for my children. Ms. Sanzi and her right wing agenda can stay in the dark ages while the rest of us progress on into a future filled with inclusivity, not exclusivity.

Lincoln247

Apparently CumberlandParent can't tolerate a "different point of view" and the idea of others "making choices for [his/her] child" as she lectures the irrational people on tolerance and makes choices for our children.

That seems rational.

Lincoln247

The only one who appears obsessed with skin color in these comments is CumberlandParent. Stop trying to make this conversation about race.

CumberlandParent

The purpose of a public education in a public school is not to teach kids only what parents want them to be taught. It is to teach them what society needs them to know. The client of the public school is not the parent, but the entire community, the public.

Lincoln247

Thanks to Ms. Sanzi for having the courage to speak out and risk being labeled a "terrorist" for daring to defend our children and their education.

Cincinnatus

I've tried to post three times, but apparently even a link to the Amazon reviews is "profanity" according to the Breeze filters. At any rate, go to the Amazon reviews and view the first image - it's a screen shot of a page where two young people are speaking about tasting themselves. It's truly sickening and has no place in a public school system.

drberg001

So you admit you have not read the book, only seen sections of it taken out of context?

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