The frequently-challenged children’s picture book Uncle Bobby’s Wedding has weathered another confrontation, this time in the St. Louis suburb of Brentwood, Missouri. Last week, the Brentwood Public Library Board of Trustees unanimously voted to leave the book in the children’s section, despite a parent’s complaint that it “advocates an illegal activity” — same-sex marriage.
Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, written and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen, tells the story of a young guinea pig’s anxiety over her favorite uncle’s impending marriage. The fact that his fiancé happens to be another male guinea pig is treated as a non-issue; the youngster is only worried that Uncle Bobby might become too busy to spend as much time with her as he used to. Brentwood resident James Vandervoort challenged the book’s presence in the children’s section, claiming that its purpose is “to glorify homosexual marriage” and that it could open the door to library books advocating other interests such as white supremacy or pedophilia.
After a meeting with Vandervoort and “a long and thoughtful discussion” amongst themselves, trustees responded to the challenge in a letter excerpted at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Book Blog: “In the end, with all due respect, we have decided to keep the book in the collection.” From the earlier meeting with Vandervoort, the Maple-Brentwood Patch paraphrases trustee Lynne DeVaughan’s opinion that “the purpose of a library is to encourage literacy, and there’s no right or wrong type of material to do that….[W]hat is legal or acceptable can change, and it’s up to the patron to determine what is acceptable for her household.”
The Brentwood Library’s strong defense of Uncle Bobby’s Wedding is reminiscent of a long letter from Douglas County (Colorado) Libraries Director Jamie LaRue in response to a parent’s challenge of the same book. The full letter is well worth a read, but here is a particularly relevant passage:
You feel that a book about gay marriage is inappropriate for young children. But another book in our collection, “Daddy’s Roommate,” was requested by a mother whose husband left her, and their young son, for another man. She was looking for a way to begin talking about this with [her] son. Another book, “Alfie’s Home,” was purchased at the request of another mother looking for a way to talk about the suspected homosexuality of her young son from a Christian perspective. There are gay parents in Douglas County, right now, who also pay taxes, and also look for materials to support their views….In short, most of the books we have are designed not to interfere with parents’ notions of how to raise their children, but to support them. But not every parent is looking for the same thing.
As always, CBLDF applauds the library staff and board members who stand firm in their commitment to serve all of the public!
Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.