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Barnes & Noble Being Sued in Virginia Beach Over GENDER QUEER, COURT OF MIST AND FURY

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

Last week, Virginia Beach (VA) schools voted to remove Gender Queer from shelves. It came after school board member Victoria Manning complained about it and several other books within the schools. After the initial review of the book and several others, Manning appealed the decision made to keep the book and after reconsideration, the book was pulled.

Now a Virginia lawyer is stepping in to take the decision further: he’s filing a suit against the school and against the Barnes & Noble store in Virginia Beach.

Virginia Beach attorney and State Delegate Tim Anderson, posted on Facebook that he and his client Tommy Altman–a right-wing republican running for Congress in the district housing Virginia Beach–saw the Virginia Beach Circuit Court find “probable cause that the books Gender Queer and A Court of Mist and Fury are obscene to unrestricted viewing by minors.”

Altman has now directed Anderson to pursue litigation against Barnes & Noble for making the material available to minors.

“My client, Tommy Altman, has now directed my office to seek a restraining order against Barnes and Noble and Virginia Beach Schools to enjoin them from selling or loaning these books to minors without parent consent,” reads Anderson’s post.

No longer is this about the rights of students to access books. It’s now about the rights of private businesses to sell books. Anderson suggests this is a new avenue for parents to fight.

“We are in a major fight. Suits like this can be filed all over Virginia. There are dozens of books. Hundreds of schools,” he said.

Alongside his message, Anderson posted screen shots from both books and the pursuant restraining orders.

Image from Facebook post.

Responses to Anderson’s announcement from followers encouraged such action and suggest this won’t be the end. Several mentioned fighting such fights against “obscene” materials for months, and that children should not be exposed to such obscene books. Still more comments applaud this brave move and see it as a way forward in book banning outside Virginia.

Facebook comment about how barnes and noble was "supplying child porn novels."

Neither book fits the definition of obscene and neither book is pornography.

Barnes & Noble has yet to respond to the legal actions taken. As a private business, they are not only allowed to sell what they wish to sell, but they are under no obligation by anyone to move materials out of their facilities. Further, no private business like the bookseller would simply “supply” books to the school district.

Right-wing groups are pushing a narrative that suggests public schools are at the epicenter of indoctrination, forcing gender and sexuality onto young people starting in kindergarten. Lawsuits like this further fuel misinformation campaigns by these groups.

Virginia has been a hotbed of book challenges in the last year, thanks in part to the rhetoric and campaigning against books and “critical race theory” by governor Glenn Youngkin. The governor, as well as Altman, are Trump supporters, and Anderson’s announcement is more than tacit approval of Altman’s run for Congress. Anderson has made books a big part of his social media strategy and has riled up his base through it.

Though this lawsuit includes only two books, Manning, same school board member who triggered the removal of Gender Queer, has her sights on Saga by Brian Vaughan next. She has been at the forefront of book challenges in Virginia Beach since the school year began, challenging The Bluest Eye for being “too racy,” despite never reading the book.