By AlaskaWatchman.com

The May 18 “Objected Material Meeting” book complaint hearing at the Mat-Su Borough Building – between a library patron (myself) and a librarian – concerned the obscenity and misinformation-riddled book “Let’s Talk About It.” It was an eye-opening hearing to say the least.

Roughly 40 Mat-Su residents attended, including Mat-Su Borough Assembly Member Dee McKee. Mat-Su Borough Parks & Recreation and Library Services Manager Hugh Leslie oversaw the proceedings, which started with two five-minute presentations.

I provided legal references and visuals to allege violation of Alaska Statute 11.61.128. This was followed by Willow Librarian Julie Mitchell, who used a defense comprised of collection-development policies and one-sided book reviews. 

The debate took place before a committee of four book judges:  librarians Cassidy Drake of Big Lake and Julie Buzby of Sutton sat on one side of a table, while library board members Mary Fischer of Talkeetna and Kathy Kysar of Sutton sat directly across from them.  Surrounded on three sides with a rapt audience, the panel listened to each presentation, discussed the controversy and then handed down a verdict. The fate of this book impacts not only the Willow library and the children it serves, but all borough-run libraries in the Mat-Su: Big Lake, Sutton, Talkeetna, Trapper Creek and Willow.

Observing the meeting was akin to watching a jury deliberation where jurors skew presented facts while spouting politicized viewpoints. However, according to Mr. Leslie, “this meeting will be taped and will most likely be available at some point in time…”

I noted that this book asserts that porn is a “fun sugary treat” and that “a safe place to research” porn is on the internet.

I was first given the floor to present verbal and visual evidence that distributing this book meets the criteria for a Class C Felony under Alaska Statute 11.61.128, and that includes satisfying all three parts of the Miller-Ginsburg (M-G) test for obscenity. To achieve the M-G criteria, the material has to appeal to prurient interest in sex for persons under 16 years. My presentation first included book descriptions as well as an image of exactly that description of sexual interest – a female cartoon character filming herself as she masturbated.

Next, I launched into the Miller-Ginsburg requirement #2 – that a reasonable person of the Mat-Su Valley would find that the material taken as a whole to lack serious literary, artistic, educational, political or scientific value for persons under 16. The word “or” became a sticking point in later discussion when a library board member decided to read this as meaning all five criteria have to be met for this book to meet the M-G test, when ONLY ONE does.  Nothing seemed to countermand this continued misinterpretation, despite numerous back-and- forth efforts between myself and the board member.

I then pointed to the book’s images and text stating that puberty can give a male a vagina, and give a female a penis. This is not scientifically possible, even with castration and cross-sex drugs.

I then showed a cartoon image from the book which depicts a female with a penis. I juxtaposed this cartoon image with an actual photo of a real female-to-male surgical mutilation. These poster images, titled “SCIENCE and NOT SCIENCE,” were put on view, side-by side.

Next, I noted that this book asserts that porn is a “fun sugary treat” and that “a safe place to research” porn is on the internet.  Numerous studies were then displayed about dangers and harms of porn watching, all written by PhDs, professors, and experts.

First off, a library board member asked if I’d ever seen a lady with a beard. I replied no – not without use of hormone drugs.

Using these fact-based arguments to demonstrate that the material lacks serious educational science value, the I then addressed #3 of the M-G test: The material depicts conduct that is patently offensive to the prevailing standards of the adult community, as a whole, with respect to what is suitable for persons under 16.  For this portion, an image of a cartoon character saying, “Man, f—k patriarchy” was displayed. Everyone was reminded that patriarchy means fathers’ roles in the family.

Two more unverified and unsupported statements from the book were addressed next: “Virginity is a silly word,” and male-female sexual relationships are “an obsolete concept…due to a lack of understanding.” They were followed up by presenting a poster of a young female taking a picture of her genitalia.  The patron accompanied this by quoting actual words from page 152 of this book, which give instructions on how to send “…these naughty masterpieces around for the world.”  And that’s when the patron spoke to the M-G question #3 about the prevailing standards of Mat-Su adults.  She asked for a show of hands from all in the room who considered this offensive. The video of this meeting will show that the only abstainers were the librarians and the board members seated at the table.

Immediately following the conclusion of my presentation, Willow librarian Julie Mitchell addressed the board from a web connection.  She said a library patron requested the book, and that she then checked reviews – both at Publishers Weekly and others, such as Kirkus Review, which is a “pay-for-review” site.  She read each review aloud, then noted that she ordered the book in December of 2022.  The publisher listed it as “Young Adult,” so that’s where her cataloguing staff put it.

Thus began the post-presentation discussion.

This is a 231-page book, and 142 pages, or fully 61% of it, features sex, nudity, images of naked bodies, naked parts, sexual innuendoes, and comments about sex.

I was only supposed to speak if questioned. First off, a library board member asked if I’d ever seen a lady with a beard. I replied no – not without use of hormone drugs.

Next, I was asked if I’d ever seen a male with breasts.  The answer was the same, but I admitted that I’d seen “man-boobs” on a heavy-set man before.  The library board member responded that she had man-friends with breasts that made her jealous.

The questions then got personal.  Where do you live?  What library do you use?  Do you have children?  How many?  Ages?  So, your interest is community-minded?

I live outside Palmer, use the Wasilla library, have six adult children and also grandchildren.

During the discussion portion, the hearing grew very interesting.  Audience outbursts occurred, which were quite poignant. As the committee discussed where the book belonged, one audience member blurted out: “It should be in the garbage.”

At one point I was asked if I’d read the book. I have.

I was then asked if I’d considered the chapters at the end of the book, which dealt with rejection and jealousy. Didn’t I feel these chapters had value?

Sutton Librarian Buzby spoke, saying she had concerns about just two chapters in the book which dealt with “pornography and sending pictures of yourself on a device.”

I answered that the placement of the chapters was reminiscent of a wolf wrapped in sheep’s clothing. The first two chapters are the same as the back chapters – innocuous and innocent, but the rest of the book is obvious obscenity.  It’s just hidden.  I pointed out that this is a 231-page book, and 142 pages, or fully 61% of it, features sex, nudity, images of naked bodies, naked parts, sexual innuendoes, and comments about sex.

One library board member commented that young adults “go on the internet and they’ll see worse than this.  I’d much rather this book than [what] they got on the internet … and found everybody’s misconceptions and lies…”

There was absolutely no acknowledgement that this book was just shown to contain misconceptions and lies.

Sutton Librarian Buzby spoke, saying she had concerns about just two chapters in the book which dealt with “pornography and sending pictures of yourself on a device.”  She also stated that the book “gives details as to how to go about doing said things.”  That gave her some pause as to putting it on a young adult shelf, but she did find that the “rest of the book – as whole – gives information that I think young people today have questions about.”

She didn’t mention one word about it being unscientific and providing false information.

Buzby added that “removing it from the shelf in Willow doesn’t remove it from access.  If you hold a library card in the State of Alaska, you can get a book from anywhere in the nation.”

An audience member then said, “The kids these days are facing this crap by their teachers and by librarians now.  That’s where they’re getting it. They’re not getting it from their parents.”

She also cited government regulations that must be neutral, stating that “when the category of content is sexuality, an expression that supports heterosexual perspectives over LGBTQ perspectives is a viewpoint.  Whether it’s something you as a parent want to have a conversation with your kid about or expose them to, this committee can’t use that as a reason this book doesn’t belong on the shelf.  It’s simply not allowed.  In law.”

Big Lake librarian Cassidy Drake then spoke, saying her thoughts were similar to the rest of the committee. She briefly touched on concerns about the same two chapters Buzby mentioned, but finished by noting that the idea of consent in this book was a big thing.

An audience member then said, “The kids these days are facing this crap by their teachers and by librarians now.  That’s where they’re getting it. They’re not getting it from their parents.”

Mr. Leslie interrupted by saying he appreciated the comments, “However, I explained there’s no public comment at this meeting.  I’ll be happy to talk to you after.”

Does that mean librarians do realize this book is sexual-grooming material? But since they’re not “pushing” it, it’s not grooming? 

The audience member responded: “It’s hard to hold back when you’re sitting calmly talking about this garbage.”

“I understand,” Mr. Leslie responded.

Here’s where the meeting got very interesting. Library Board Member Mary Fischer claimed:

“If this book were handed to each child when it came in or recommended to each child when it came in, and there were posters on the wall of the pictures in it, that would be grooming.  Putting a book on the shelf is not grooming. It is not pushing anything.  It’s simply giving a point of view.”

Does that mean librarians do realize this book is sexual-grooming material? But since they’re not “pushing” it, it’s not grooming? 

If they push mystery books, that’s not grooming.

If they push non-fiction books, that’s not grooming.

Grooming is a term developed in the 80s to describe getting beneath a child’s inhibitions (befriending them, etc), so you can sexually abuse them. In order to call it grooming, a book has to have obscene or pornographic material within the covers.

The same board member (Mary Fischer) went on to say, “We could go to any subject and say fine, the book on plumbing tells you to do it this way.  There’s a book on plumbing and they could tell you to do it this way.  Someone will come up and say if you do that, your house is gonna fall down.  But there’s two points of view.  And the points of view are important.  You can’t have it all be the same.  Monitor what your children read.  I did.”

I responded: “Plumbing is not illegal.”

Librarian Buzby got the committee back on track by asking if the committee members thought the book should remain in the young adult section.

To no one’s surprise all four members agreed the book should remain there.

Mr. Leslie asked, “so what happens next is…”

He was interrupted by an audience member who said, “You should all be fired.  That’s what.”

Mr. Leslie then provided information on what would take place next.  He advised anyone to call him, and he’d be happy to have a discussion.  His words were:  “It’s what I do. I work for you.” His email is hugh.leslie@matsugov.us.  His direct number is 907-861-7868.

As the meeting wrapped up, an audience attendee commented: “We’re at war against the book.”

The views expressed here are those of the author.

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OPINION: Mat-Su library board won’t pull youth sex book, but member admits ‘pushing’ it ‘would be grooming’

Jacquelyn Ivie Goforth
The author is highly active in Mat-Su politics and served as chairperson of the "Recall Palmer Three" campaign, which successfully recalled three left-leaning city council members in 2022. She is also an award winning fiction writer who now lives in Palmer with her husband and very spoiled pets.