A new analysis by The Washington Post shows how Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison became the second most challenged book in 2021.
The coming-of-age novel, with features a gay Mexican American protagonist, was first published in 2018. However, it wasn't until three years later that Lawn Boy attracted controversy.
On Sept. 19, 2021, Brandi Burkman appeared before a Texas school board to complain about Lawn Boy, which her 16-year-old son had discovered in his AP English classroom and brought home for supplemental reading.
When Burkman, who is Catholic, looked at Lawn Boy herself, she discovered that it contained a sexual encounter between two 10-year-old children.
"What sort of diversity are you intending to teach my child with material like this? Who normalizes sex acts between fourth-graders?" she implored. "I'll tell you who. Pedophiles."
Days later, Stacy Langton of Virginia, inspired by Burkman, falsely said in her school board's meeting that Lawn Boy depicted a sexual encounter between an adult man and a 10-year-old.
Claiming that the "book describes a fourth-grade boy performing oral sex on an adult male," she said. "Pornography is offensive to all people! It is offensive to common decency!"
Langston's statement, though misinformed, got national coverage. Outraged parents across the country followed her lead.
According to the Post, the book was in challenged in 35 school districts spanning 20 states. In half of those places, Lawn Boy was temporarily removed from shelves, though in many cases it was later returned, once it was found that it didn't contain pedophilia.
Evison, however, said he never intended Lawn Boy to be placed in school libraries. In fact, he was surprised when the American Library Association gave the book a 2019 award in the young adult category.
Suggesting that librarians may have confused it with Gary Paulsen's book by the same name, Evison said Lawn Boy's intended readership was "nobody below a teenager."
The author also noted that sales of Lawn Boy have spiked massively in the last year.