Mississippi parents get ‘pornographic’ Heartstopper books banned from teens in public library

Kit Connor as Nick Nelson and Joe Locke as Charlie Spring in a still from the Heartstopper two trailer.

The graphic novel series Heartstopper will no longer be available in the teen section of a Mississippi public library after a group of parents claimed the books were pornographic.

The Heartstopper books, which tell the story of two teen boys who fall in love, were removed from the teen section of the Columbia-Marion County public library and placed in the adult section after complaints.

The library moved the graphic novels from the teen section after a meeting on 9 August in which a group of parents claimed the books were pornographic, with one reportedly claiming homosexuals were using the series to “recruit” children into the LGBTQ+ community. 

One mother also reportedly cited 14 other books that they found “objectionable”, asking for the board to remove them from the teen section in order to “protect our children”, The Mississippi Free Press reported.

Other titles described as objectionable included Dress Codes for Small Towns, by Courtney Stevens and Luna, by Julie Anne Peters, both of which have LGBTQ+ themes. 

Heather McMurry, the mother said to have submitted the complaint about the Heartstopper series, said she had visited booklooks.org, a site run by “concerned parents” who screen children’s and young adults’ books for “objectionable” content. According to the site’s reports for Alice Oseman’s popular series, the graphic novels contain “sexual activities, alternate sexualities, alternate gender ideologies, profanity and violence.”

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In reality, the books have a few scenes featuring kissing, but contain no explicit material. 

Bookslooks was launched in 2022 by a member of the vocal conservative advocacy group Moms for Liberty, which has been branded as a far-right extremist organisation by civils rights activists at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Alice Oseman hints at what to expect from season three of Heartstopper.
Alice Oseman is the author of the Heartstopper series of graphic novels. (Getty)

A local mother who wanted to remain anonymous said that she had not been given a chance to speak in favour of Heartstopper at the meetings, and told the newspaper that only opponents of the book had spoken. 

Her son previously told the Mississippi Free Press that he had been pleased to see the series in the library. 

“Seeing that gave me at least a little bit of hope that maybe this town was OK and that people like me, kids, would feel like it’s not a bad thing and feel like they can have something relatable to connect with and make them feel hopeful and happy and secure, something as simple as a book,” he said.

His mum said that while she was relieved the books were not banned outright, moving the titles to the adult section could mean that a child with a homophobic parent will not be able to read them.

The library’s director, Ryda Worthy, and the branch manager, Mona Swayze, who reportedly did not have a say in the decision to move the titles, confirmed that teenagers can only obtain books from the adult section with parental permission.

The restriction comes during a time of growing calls to censor or remove books containing LGBTQ+ themes from libraries, with one in the state of Washington facing closure over a single book about trans people.

The American Library Association tracked 1,269 demands to censor library books in the US in 2022, with Maia Kobabe’s graphic novel Gender Queer topping the list of most-complained-about books. 

However, some states are fighting back, with a Texas judge ordering books banned for containing LGBTQ+ and racial content to be returned to library shelves.

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