The right-wing war on harmless YA books continues with new lawsuits

Denying bodily autonomy to real people is not enough for American conservatives. They also need to control the sex in the books.

Last month, former Republican congressional candidate Tommy Altman sued to mark two books – the graphic memoirs of Maia Kobabe Gender Queer and A court of mist and fury by Sarah J. Maas – as obscene material under state law, which would prevent booksellers and libraries from distributing the books without parental consent.

In a report Last week, the ACLU announced that it was representing multiple parties, from authors to book distributors, in joint filings seeking to dismiss the lawsuit. But there is already another; Altman and his attorney Tim Anderson, who is currently a delegate from the state of Virginia, also filed a separate complaint against Kobabe specifically and its publisher, Oni Press, alleging that Gender QueerThe obscenity of is detrimental to the community.

“The books at issue here are not obscene by any stretch of the imagination,” reads the ACLU statement in part, noting that almost no books have been declared legally obscene since the Supreme Court set standards for obscenity with Miller v. California in 1973. The ACLU also asserts that the law is unconstitutional, and that Altman’s assertion that the books are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors” is in fact not a category mentioned anywhere in the law. relevant.

As we noted earlier on Theirby Kobabe Gender Queer is a comic book memoir in which Kobabe revisits his teenage and college years, with a handful of slightly racy content scattered throughout (including a reproduction of a Greek vase and – gasp – the crack of an ass) but no explicit sex scenes. Yet the book has been at the center of a storm over queer content in school libraries for several years, becoming an unlikely partisan issue that had a major impact on last year’s Virginia gubernatorial election, which Republican Glenn Youngkin won with just 2% of the popular vote. The American Library Association in 2021 appointed Gender Queer as the most contested book of the year.

of the Meuse A court of mist and fury is a slightly different case; unlike Kobabe’s work, it is a fantasy novel, the second part of a longer series in which Maas reimagines fairy tales and myth – in this case, the story of Hades and Persephone. The novel is unambiguously far more obscene than anything else in Gender Queer; Maas’ main characters engage in harsh, explicit sex, and penetration and suggestive descriptions of anatomy abound. It’s a little baffling why Altman and Anderson are upset with the book. nowhowever, as it came out in 2016. But regardless, sex in YA and “new adult” novels aimed at older teens is a common occurrence – something that should be used responsibly, but never prohibited.

It’s almost always a bad sign when politicians go after “obscene” authors, a label that has been used to silence queer, marginalized and radical voices in the United States for much of the 20th century. These latest attacks are just another facet of the far-right’s war on LGBTQ+ freedom of expression – and a counterattack in the courts may no longer be enough to keep attacks like these at bay. .

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