It’s always impressive when someone devotes their life to a cause. Virginia Beach school board member Victoria Manning has: alas, the cause in question is trying to get books banned from classrooms due to their “pornographic nature.”
The Daily Beast reported this week that Manning sent an email to Virginia Beach City Public Schools Superintendent Aaron Spence demanding that several “pornographic” books be removed from circulation or use in the district’s curriculum. “It has been brought to my attention by some parents that there are some disturbing books in our district that are available to students,” Manning wrote to Spence on October 5th. “I would like to ask that you pull these books from shelves and also block electronic access by students to getting these books IMMEDIATELY.” She also demanded all staff who had approved the books be “disciplined.” Spence responded that four of the books not included in the school curriculum had been removed.
The books in question included: Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, the story of a young Chicano man trying to achieve the American Dream; Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, an ALA Alex Award-winning graphic novel memoir about growing up as nonbinary; A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines, which follows a young man who visits an innocent Black youth on death row, a National Book Critics Circle Award winner and Oprah’s Book Club pick; and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison. In Manning’s October 5th email, she admitted she had not read The Bluest Eye but still was certain it was inappropriate: “I have not been able to get a copy of this book in my hands but I should be able to get a copy by tomorrow to confirm what is in it.” Said Manning, “Just reading a few of the pages gives me utter disgust.” She also claimed the books contained “pedophilia.”
Spence says Manning also separately requested the review of two other books: Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out and Good Trouble: Lessons from the Civil Rights Playbook.
Is it a coincidence that all these books Manning deemed pornographic discuss marginalized races and genders? Draw your own conclusions: Manning’s personal website has a page called “Wokeness Checker,” where she writes that “wokeness and Critical Race Theory (CRT) practices are becoming embedded in our nation’s schools, including here in Virginia Beach,” and encourages readers of her site to submit “documents that show Wokeness or CRT-Indoctrination Teachings in VB Schools.” Wrote Manning on her website, “We are NOT innately racist and we should NOT be making those statements to teachers and children.”
Spence told The Daily Beast that Manning’s concerns don’t represent the concerns of parents-at-large and this isn’t a “rampant issue.” Yet her tactics are working for her, at least to some extent: staff are still reviewing the other books Manning mentioned, but in an email to the board, Spence said Gender Queer had been “permanently removed from our shelves.”