Earlier this month, US public radio NPR’s website ran an essay by author Maia Kobabe. In it, she lamented the fact that her 2019 graphic novel ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’ was removed from many school libraries across the United States. The piece provoked some fury on the right, with some even suggesting that NPR should be penalised in some form. While recently, opposition to censorious efforts has more commonly come from the right in the United States, this time it was conservative columnist David Marcus in a piece penned for FOXNews.com who pointed out that what conspicuously missing from the NPR piece is why the book was taken off many shelves.
The reason was that the novel intended for young audiences included many realistic depictions of sexual acts.
The fact that schools did not want to expose their students to such material is more than understandable. Actually, many states—rightfully—have laws that prohibit the use in schools of books transmitting sexual messages to minors. All that considered, Kobabe still could tell her side of the story on the public airwaves, or rather, on the public web pages, of NPR. Marcus noted that the editors of the public radio failed to add any notes to her essay, and let her narrative be published without giving it crucial context. The fact that in the same writing, Kobabe compared her work to such classic novels as Harper Lee’s 1960 ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ or John Steinbeck’s 1937 ‘Of Mice and Men’ is just the icing on the cake.
In his own article covering the controversy, Marcus wrote that he would have less of an objection to the essay had it been published on the website of a private company, not the taxpayer-funded NPR. He also went as far as calling on Republican lawmakers to pull funding for National Public Radio.
The Republican Party recently took the majority in the House of Representatives following the 2022 Midterm Elections. However, despite mainstream expectations, they failed to take back the Senate. Had they been able to do so, they still would’ve had to get their budget plans past Democratic President Joe Biden—but now, they have even less leverage. However, as the new speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy has faced challenges to his confirmation from the more Conservative fractions of his party, he may be compelled to endorse controversial demands like that of Marcus calling for the defunding of NPR, even if they have very little chance of coming to fruition.
Embracing the issue of parents’ rights and opposition to the teaching of critical race theory and gender theory in public schools worked really well for Republicans
in the two gubernatorial elections back in 2021. Glenn Youngkin won his race in Virginia. Diane Allen lost in New Jersey, but she outperformed the Republican ticket in the Presidential election a year prior by 13 points.
Kobabe herself referenced a famous incident from a school board meeting in Fairfax, Virginia in the autumn of 2021 where one of the parents railed against her book, a video of which went viral on the internet at the time. However, this momentum for the Republicans slowed by 2022, leading to only a narrow majority in the House and a loss of a seat in the Senate. Perhaps a focus on similar issues that many Republican voters clearly feel strongly about would help the American right-wing party.
In Hungary the public was faced with a similar controversy involving a children’s book titled A Fairyland for Everyone (Meseország mindenkié). It is a collection of children’s stories transforming popular Hungarian folk tales to convey LGBTQ messages. To cite a few examples, the book has a story about a young prince choosing the princess’s brother as his spouse instead of the princess herself; or the story of a young doe (as in a female deer) wanting to become a buck. This book was published in September 2020 by the Labrisz Lesbian Association. Soon after its publication, the Hungarian consumer protection agency thankfully stepped in and required book retailers to label the product as not a traditional children’s book.