56 books awaiting review after removal from Mat-Su Borough school libraries

56 book titles are currently off the shelves in the Mat-Su Borough district schools.
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 5:04 PM AKDT
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PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) - Fifty-six book titles are currently off the shelves in the Mat-Su Borough School District libraries. According to the district, the list of books contains dozens of titles brought to the school board’s attention by community members.

In August, the school board hand-picked 11 community members to participate in a Library Citizens Advisory Committee. This group plans to review four books each month to see if the book breaks a state statute that criminalizes distributing pornographic material to students under the age of 16.

The four books the committee plans to review this month are:

- “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini

- “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

- “Persepolis: The Story of A Childhood” by Marjane Satrapi

- “Flamer” by Mike Curato.

Books that have been reviewed so far include Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”, a book about puberty called “It’s Perfectly Normal” and “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold.

During Wednesday’s school board meeting, community members voiced concerns about what impact certain books could have on young readers.

“We do not want to take the innocence away from children,” Mary Rivera said. “I was exposed to books that were sexually explicit at a young age and my innocence was taken away — that’s what we’re talking about.”

Other community members however expressed their concern about the impact of removing the books could have on students.

“We are very much in the cutting information in our textbooks era right now to reduce education. And I just wonder what it will be in 42 years that will make us understand that we should actually be improving education to better society as a whole and not limiting it,” borough resident Sky Harding said.

According to district superintendent Randy Trani, neither he nor the school board members have read all of the 56 books to be reviewed — but the staff members involved are reviewing the books at the same time as the committee. However, Trani said it was the safer choice to remove them from the shelves at this time.

“It was just a matter of being safe for staff members. Since there were these allegations or worries they they were potentially in violation of that statute. It wasn’t worth it to leave them on the shelves and we wanted to give this process time to go,” Trani said.

Trani said the advisory committee is just passing along its feedback to the school board, which will have the ultimate decision regarding remains on the shelves. At this time, Trani said he does not know when or how that will happen.

All of books being reviewed this month with the exception of “Flamer” are available in the Mat-Su Borough Public Library system.