Last week’s good news that a Rio Rancho, New Mexico school district review committee voted to retain Gilbert Hernandez’s Palomar in a high school library collection is today tempered by the additional information that the parent who challenged the book is appealing that decision to the school board. The board is expected to consider the appeal in a public meeting sometime in the coming weeks.
This story broke back in February with a heavily biased news report from Albuquerque-area TV station KOAT, which unquestioningly labeled the critically-acclaimed comic “sexual, graphic, and not suitable for children.” Catrenna Lopez, the mother of a Rio Rancho High School freshman, said she wanted the book off school library shelves because it contained “child pornography pictures and child abuse pictures.” The KOAT report showed the library copy stuffed with sticky-note flags that Lopez had used to mark all the pages she found objectionable, but the reporter provocatively told viewers that “we can’t show you any of the images because they’re too sexual and very graphic.”
In the latest news report from competing station KRQE, the book received slightly more balanced treatment: some images from interior pages were shown, albeit with pixelization, and a reporter interviewed CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein to provide a counterpoint to Lopez. KRQE also referenced the letter that we and other members of the Kids’ Right to Read Project sent to the Rio Rancho school district in defense of the book, calling it an “exploration of culture, identity, sexuality and memory” rather than a compendium of child porn.
Lopez seems undeterred, however, hyperbolically telling KRQE that “to me, this book is kind of like having a Hustler magazine in the schools.” While CBLDF strongly disagrees with that sentiment, we are gratified that Rio Rancho district officials are following their challenge policy and requiring Lopez to lay out her case before the public. Rest assured we will keep fighting to make sure Palomar stays in the school library collection!
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.