A children’s book on the life of tennis and LGBTQ icon Billie Jean King is being reviewed for a possible ban in elementary school libraries by a school district in Tallahassee, Fla., after a parent complained about one of its themes that supports same-sex love.
The Tallahassee Democrat lays out the complaint:
“I am Billie Jean King,” a children’s book by Brad Meltzer located in three elementary school libraries, is being evaluated by administrators to determine whether it’s age appropriate, according to district spokesperson Chris Petley. The book remains on the shelves during the review process. ...
The complaint about the King children’s biography, rated 4.8 stars on Amazon, came from a parent at Hawks Rise Elementary School.
The book includes a page that describes how King fell in love and married her wife, Ilana Kloss.
“Eventually, Larry and I stopped being married and I fell in love with a wonderful woman named Ilana,” King’s cartoon depiction says in the book. “You can’t choose who you fall in love with. Your heart will tell you.”
In Florida, it only takes one parent to object and set in motion hearings on whether a book should be allowed to be on library shelves. The laws on so-called “parental rights” have been a cornerstone of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ legislative agenda. DeSantis denies his laws push book bans, though librarians say that’s the impact they have.
“The Leon County review process states the parent complaint heads to school administration first,” the Democrat says. “If unresolved, the complaint goes from the principal and up the chain of command to the superintendent. The superintendent will then meet with the parent. If they cannot agree on an outcome, the decision goes to the Leon County School Board for a hearing within 30 days.”
The paper notes that the request to ban the book came days after King, on a visit to Florida, criticized the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
DeSantis has called book banning a "hoax."— PEN America (@PENamerica) May 10, 2023
Meanwhile, Leon school district is reviewing "I am Billie Jean King" by @bradmeltzer based on one parent's complaint about the line: "You can’t choose who you fall in love with. Your heart will tell you."https://t.co/hwAx3yeYfG
The book is rated as appropriate for children in kindergarten to fourth grade and is 40 pages written in a cartoon style. It celebrates an American hero and the idea that one parent can get a book yanked from the shelves is infuriating and one reason book bans are unpopular.
According to the author’s rights group PEN America, 357 books have been banned in Florida since these laws started being passed in states. “Overwhelmingly, book banners continue to target stories by and about people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals,” PEN America notes. “In this six-month period, 30% of the unique titles banned are books about race, racism, or feature characters of color. Meanwhile, 26% of unique titles banned have LGBTQ+ characters or themes.”