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A group is offering the memoir 'Gender Queer' to Maine students after it was banned in their school

Challenged Books
Rick Bowmer
FILE - Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center, poses with books on Dec. 16, 2021, that have been the subject of complaints from parents in Salt Lake City.

The Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance is raising money to provide copies of the book "Gender Queer" to students in the Dixfield area after it was banned from the local high school's library last week.

Earlier this year, some community members in Regional School Unit 56 called for a review of the illustrated memoir, which explores the author's journey of gender identity and sexual orientation.

A five-member committee unanimously recommended keeping the book in the library at Dirigo High School, noting that "in order for employees and students to understand what sexual orientation and gender identity entail, information around such must be obtainable."

But the Rumford Falls Times reported that seven of nine board members voted to ban the book, and that some said they were "appalled" by its content.

Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance Associate Director Taryn Bowe said her organization quickly began working with Devaney, Doak and Garrett Booksellers, based in Farmington, to raise money to offer copies of the book to any teenagers in the area who want to read it.

"This is really in our wheelhouse," Bowe said. "It's about books. It's about expression. It's about wanting to make sure that people value the diversity of stories that are out there, and they continue to be available."

Gia Drew, the executive director of EqualityMaine, said that she's happy to see the effort to provide books to students. But she said organizations shouldn't have to resort to fund-raising to ensure students can read stories from a range of perspectives.

"We want to make sure there's the full scope of what it means to be LGBTQ available on bookshelves," Drew said. "And I think it is very worrisome that some school districts are taking the move to ban books."

Bowe said the organization has raised about $2,500 so far, enough for more than 100 copies.

According to the American Library Association, "Gender Queer" was the most challenged graphic novel last year. Boards in Illinois, North Carolina and Florida considered banning the book from school libraries.

The school board chair for RSU 56 did not immediately return a request for comment.