OLD TAPPAN — A book criticized for being “pornographic” has angered some Bergen County parents and the mayor of a nearby town, who are demanding it be removed from their school’s summer reading list.
“Not All Boys Are Blue” is banned from school libraries in at least eight states, Time magazine reported. Author George Johnson, who is black and identifies as gay, said in an interview with Time magazine that his autobiographical book was aimed at 14 to 18 year olds.
“I knew it would always happen,” Johnson said of her book’s ban. It received national scrutiny for its passages graphically describing Johnson’s masturbation and sexual experiences.
Northern Valley Regional Secondary School in Old Tappan is the latest school to come under fire in relation to the book. The North Jersey school, which has about 1,100 students, according to US News, is a five-minute drive from the New York state border.
NVRHS District Superintendent James Santana told New Jersey 101.5 in a statement that the book was not on a list provided by the district. Santana added that “all summer reading is based on student choice.”
“I am aware that some parents in a few NV communities are concerned about a book that is available to young adults around the world,” Santana said. “What I’ve learned is that many of the parent concerns brought to my attention about our summer reading list are based on misinformation.”
The superintendent recommended that parents discuss reading choices with their children.
“As requested by parents in the past, the district is providing information on where to find award-winning young adult/teen books,” Santana said. “This book, along with hundreds of other books, may appear on these non-district award-winning lists.”
One such award-winning list is the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Teens Top Ten. “Not All Boys Are Blue” won first place on this list last year after being voted on by readers aged 12 to 18.
Woodcliff Mayor Carlos Rendo, a Republican and former candidate for lieutenant governor, calls on parents to attend school board meetings and demand the removal of the book.
“It’s time for us to take a stand! This is the agenda the Democrats are pushing,” Rendo said on social media Wednesday. Rendo sounded the alarm after receiving an email from a concerned parent.
“Please consider attending the BOE meeting tonight to let the administration know that the sexual grooming of children in any way is deplorable and unacceptable behavior in our district” , added Rendo.
However, North Valley schools do not serve Woodcliff students. Instead, they attend Pascack Hills High School in Montvale.
“I don’t know why a mayor of a town not associated with our district would publicly raise concerns about something in Northern Valley schools without first contacting the school’s chief administrator,” said Santana.
A similar effort at the North Hunterdon-Voorhees Regional High School District to ban two books resulted in a police call from Clinton last month, The New York Times reported. The books in question, “Lawn Boy” and “Gender Queer”, were also labeled as “pornographic” to include sexual situations, some of which were illustrated.
Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at [email protected]
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