Virginia Library Put Sexually Explicit Books Next to Bible on ‘Holiday Reading Display’

By Terri Wu
Terri Wu
Terri Wu
Terri Wu is a Washington-based freelance reporter for The Epoch Times covering education and China-related issues. Send tips to terri.wu@epochtimes.com.
December 9, 2021 Updated: December 16, 2021

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va.—Over the weekend, a public library in northern Virginia put on a “holiday reading display” featuring two sexually explicit books next to the Bible, which was held by a plush dwarf wearing a rainbow-colored hat. Upon patrons’ complaints, the display was removed on Dec. 7.

The books—”Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe and “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison—are among many books containing graphic sexual content that have been banned from school libraries in some states, including Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee, and Minnesota.

“The Dolley Madison Library holiday reading display was intended to highlight the freedom to read and the fact that many library patrons have more time during the holidays to do so,” Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL) Director Jessica Hudson said in a statement on Tuesday. “It was not the intention of staff to create a display that could be construed as offensive. The display has been removed.”

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“Holiday reading display” at Dolley Madison Library, a branch of Fairfax County Public Libraries, featured two sexually explicit books next to the Bible in McLean, Va., on Dec. 6, 2021. (Twitter @StacyLangton)

Stacy Langton, a mother from Fairfax County who has been fighting for the removal of these two books from school libraries, told The Epoch Times that the display was “intentional,” “outrageous,” and “an attack on Christianity itself.”

“It is a blasphemy against Jesus to put pedophilic and pornographic filth such as ‘Gender Queer’ alongside His Word in the Holy Bible, as though they are equal,” she added.

The mother said she received the display pictures from another county resident on Monday afternoon. During her visit to the library the next day, she found out that the display had been removed.

Langton said she spoke over the phone with Nancy Ryan, the FCPL branch coordinator, who told her that the manager of Dolley Madison Library Mary Prisbrey approved the display, an idea of a library staffer. Langton said she learned from Ryan that the display began on Saturday. Ryan declined to comment on The Epoch Times’ inquiry of the conversation.

On Wednesday, Prisbrey confirmed to The Epoch Times that the display was in the library lobby, now covered by a black curtain. When asked if she was the librarian who approved the display, Prisbrey said the library had several librarians and deferred further questions to the FCPL media relations. 

Epoch Times Photo
The glass display case in the lobby that featured LGBTQ books and the Bible was covered by a black curtain at Dolley Madison Library in McLean, Va., on Dec. 8, 2021. (Terri Wu/The Epoch Times)

FCPL’s Marketing and Communications Director Erin Julius declined to answer questions regarding the decision-making process for such displays and how many complaints the FCPL received.

This controversy comes on the heels of a broader battle between parents and administrators over the display of sexually explicit material in school libraries across Fairfax County. 

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) on Nov. 23 announced a decision to put the two books back to the school libraries. The school board in September pulled the books out of school libraries for review after Langton filed a challenge, citing sexually explicit content and pedophilia references.

At the end of a two-month review process, two committees—made up of parents, students, and school officials—unanimously recommended that the books be returned to school libraries, saying that they didn’t find any pedophilia and obscene material, and that the books serve the needs of LGBTQ+ students in search of diverse reading material they can relate to.

“Gender Queer,” a graphic novel with cartoon-style pictures, shows an image of a pedophilic act, while “Lawn Boy” contains an explicit description of a sexual act between two minors.

Both books were chosen to receive the American Library Association’s Alex Awards, which are given to 10 books annually with “special appeal to young adults ages 12 through 18.”

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Fairfax County parent Stacy Langton spoke at the school board meeting at Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, Va., on Dec. 2, 2021. (Lisa Fan/The Epoch Times)

At a Dec. 2 school board meeting, Jane Miscavage, an FCPS employee and a trustee of the Fairfax County Public Library who said she spoke in her personal capacity thanked the review committees. “I’m glad that the committees have found what I did, that these books have the potential to reach marginalized students who may not otherwise see themselves in FCPS’s three million book collection,” she said. 

“Thank you for your time, thoughtfulness, and diligence in reading and discussing the appropriateness of the books,” she added. 

Not everyone, however, found the committee review process fair.

Christopher Henzel, a Fairfax County resident and former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, said at the same meeting, “The committees were packed with teachers and administrators who work for the school board and who could be counted on to give the board the answer it wanted.

“And sure enough, last week, the committees reported to their bosses on this school board that the two books are just fine. You’re not fooling anyone with your insider committees.”

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Fairfax County residents protested before a school board meeting outside Luther Jackson Middle School in Falls Church, Va., on Dec. 2, 2021. (Lisa Fan/The Epoch Times)

“Lawn Boy” is available in the library catalog at Robinson Secondary School, a six-year public school whose student population includes middle and high schoolers, even though the review committees’ findings didn’t address the book’s appropriateness for middle schoolers. “Gender Queer” is categorized under “adult graphic novels” and “Lawn Boy” under “adult fiction” in Fairfax County Public Libraries.

FCPS Superintendent Scott Brabrand, at the Dec. 2 school board meeting, “reaffirmed” the FCPS’s commitment to “providing diverse reading materials in our libraries that reflect our student population and allow every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in the library and literary characters.”

Langton has organized a protest against “holiday hate” outside Dolley Madison Library in McLean, Virginia, at noon on Saturday.

A previous version of this article incorrectly described the explicit content in “Lawn Boy.” The Epoch Times regrets the error. 

Terri Wu
Terri Wu is a Washington-based freelance reporter for The Epoch Times covering education and China-related issues. Send tips to terri.wu@epochtimes.com.