It’s been nearly impossible for Browseabout Books manager Susan McAnelly to keep the popular young adult novel “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” on the store’s shelves after Cape Henlopen school board removed the book from its summer reading list for incoming freshmen, a decision first reported two weeks ago in the Cape Gazette.
“I’ve been here 10 years and I’ve not seen anything quite like this,” said McAnelly. “It’s been on twitter feeds, Facebook, blogs. It’s been quite a flurry.”
Besides trying to keep the book on hand to sell, Browseabout is now giving the book away free to any teenage reader who asks for one.
McAnelly said staff from the website AfterEllen.com contacted the store shortly after hearing about the board’s decision to see whether the store would distribute the book to teen readers if members of its online community purchased the books.
McAnelly agreed to distribute the book. She said it’s not the bookstore’s job to say what’s appropriate and what isn’t for customers; as a local, independent bookstore, Browseabout's job is to provide the books that want to be read, she said.
Elaine Atwell, a contributing writer to AfterEllen.com, said the website found out the book had been removed from the school district’s reading list through the twitter account of “Miseducation of Cameron Post” author Emily Danforth. Atwell described AfterEllen.com as a mainstream, pop-culture website for lesbian and bisexual women with an international audience.
The board's decision - a 6-1 vote in favor of removal - immediately garnered a lot of attention from the site’s users, said Atwell, who has read the book, and said she was moved by it.
The book is set in rural Montana in the early 1990s. The parents of the main character, a teenage girl named Cameron Post, die in a car accident before finding out she’s gay. Orphaned, the girl moves in with her old-fashioned grandmother and ultraconservative Aunt Ruth; she falls in love with her best friend – a girl.
When Post is eventually outed, her aunt sends her to God’s Promise, a religious conversion camp the aunt believes will cure her homosexuality. At the camp, she comes face to face with the cost of denying her identity.
Removing the book from the reading list was deemed as an attack, and standing up for a book this valuable was necessary, said Atwell.
This is the first time the AfterEllen community has done anything of this nature, said Atwell, who called it a brilliant idea.
Atwell said she finds the school board’s reasoning for removing the book from the list disingenuous at best.
In the June 27 story in the Cape Gazette, board President Spencer Brittingham and board member Sandi Minard said their reason for removing the book was because the F-word is used throughout the book and that language of that nature was not appropriate for incoming freshmen. They were both adamant that language was the sole reason for taking the book off the reading list.
Atwell said all the other books on this list contain similar language, but “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is the only book with a lesbian relationship. The school board is using the issue of language as something to stand behind publicly, Atwell said.
As of July 8, McAnelly said, 48 books had been bought by people from the AfterEllen community, and a shipment of 40 had already arrived. It’s been people from all over the country who have ordered a copy, she said.
The donated books are still coming in, said McAnelly, and as long as they are, the bookstore will continue to serve as an outlet for their distribution.
“There’s a need for that,” said McAnelly.
The books are stacked high on the counter immediately behind the registers – in a location that’s hard to miss, and all an interested teen needs to do is ask for a copy, said McAnelly. She said she’s not going to check to see if it’s a local teen that is asking for the book, because AfterEllen’s goal is for any interested teen to be able to read it.
“If any teen has enough wherewithal to ask for the book, then we’ll give it to them,” she said.