Alabama library flagged children's book as "sexually explicit" because of the author's last name

Huntsville-Madison County Public Library flagged a children's picture book called Read Me a Story, Stella as possibly sexually explicit. Fortunately, before the book was permanently removed from the kids section, a staffer noticed why the book was included on a list of 233 titles to be reviewed: The author's name is Marie-Louise Gay.


"Although it is obviously laughable that our picture book shows up on their list of censored books simply because the author's last name is Gay, the ridiculousness of that fact should not detract from the seriousness of the situation," [Gay's Groundwood Books publicist Kirsten] Brassard said in a statement.

Brassard mentioned other books on the list, including Angie Thomas' "The Hate U Give," which has no LGBTQ themes or sexual content but does depict the shooting of an unarmed Black teenager at the hands of police[…]

[Library executive director Cindy] Hewitt said the review was based on a list of 102 books compiled by Clean Up Alabama. Clean Up Alabama has been targeting "sexually explicit" books in libraries around the state this year. "Read Me A Story, Stella" is not on this list. She said the library was gearing up for "unprecedented" book challenges by using this list as a starting point. received a copy of the book review list for the Madison branch and found that 91% of 233 titles had the words lesbian, gay, transgender, gender identity, or gender non-conforming in the subject header, which lists numerous themes for each book. Hewitt said the keywords she asked the 10 branch managers at HCPL to use were "sexuality, gender, sex, and dating."