School districts in Maine have been discussing whether “Gender Queer: A Memoir” should remain on library shelves after some parents have requested its removal. The discussion is not isolated to Maine. Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education programs at the Utah Pride Center, poses with books on Dec. 16, 2021, that have been the subject of complaints from parents in Salt Lake City. AP file photo

In the wake of discussions on whether a graphic novel exploring gender identity and sexuality is appropriate for Maine’s high school libraries, interest in reading the book has grown.

At least one school district in Maine has removed “Gender Queer: A Memoir” from its high school library this month, and a second plans to vote on whether to ban it at its next school board meeting.

Across the Minerva library catalog system, which serves more than 60 public libraries across Maine, all 28 copies of “Gender Queer: A Memoir” are currently either checked out or in the process of being checked out. An additional copy of the book at York High School was listed as “unavailable.”

As of Wednesday, there were 23 hold requests for the graphic novel in Minerva.

At the Portland public library, which uses a different online catalog system, all four copies are in use, with seven hold requests.

According to MaineCat, which serves most of Maine libraries and some schools, only two copies of the book are available to be checked out as of Wednesday afternoon: one at Farmington Public Library and another at the University of Maine at Augusta.


Lewiston Public Library Director Marcela Peres said “Gender Queer: A Memoir” has become more popular locally since there was a challenge brought against the book at Lewiston High School last fall.

The three copies of “Gender Queer: A Memoir” at the Lewiston library have collectively been checked out 26 times and renewed 18 times since June 2019, when the first copy was purchased. Two more copies were added to the library in December 2021.

In some cases, library patrons check out controversial books with no intention of returning them, according to James Jackson Sanborn, executive director of Maine Infonet, which runs Minerva. However, with only a couple copies past their due dates, he said there was no sign of this happening yet with this book.

Earlier this month, Dixfield-based Regional School Unit 56 directors voted to remove “Gender Queer: A Memoir” from the shelves of Dirigo High School’s library after a monthslong campaign by community members. The board initially voted to keep the book following the recommendation of a district committee created to review it, but reversed course after several members of the community appealed the decision.

And this week, directors at Buxton-based School Administrative District 6 discussed whether they too should remove it from their libraries at the request of parents. A second book on sexuality and gender identity, “It’s Perfectly Normal,” was also included in their discussion.

The Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance has raised more than $4,300 through a GoFundMe fundraiser as of Wednesday to provide free copies of the book to interested Dirigo High School students.


Maine is not alone in these discussions. In 2021, “Gender Queer: A Memoir” was the most banned book in the U.S. according to reporting by the New York Times, which additionally noted that book bans and challenges soared across the country last year.

The 2019 graphic novel was written by Maia Kobabe, who identifies as nonbinary and asexual.

Advocates of removing the book from high school libraries have said the graphic novel includes pornographic content and is not appropriate for high school students. Opponents say the book is a valuable resource for queer students or those wishing to better understand queer identity.

Editor’s note: A comment from Lewiston Public Library Director Marcela Peres was clarified.

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