What Progress has the FCPS Book Committee Made So Far?


Charlotte Hoffman, Writer

Earlier this month, the FCPS book committee held their first meeting. Though FCPS had originally intended for the committee to begin meeting in February, a legal dispute pushed them back a few weeks. The committee is composed of 59 members, 10 of which are local high school students. Governor Thomas Johnson’s representative, junior Catherine Grau, was assigned her first book for review: “Sold” by Patricia McCormick.

According to Grau, the book is about, “a girl who gets trafficked from Nepal to work as a prostitute in India.” The girl, thirteen-year-old Laksmi, belongs to an impoverished family and, in an attempt to earn money, accepts a job as a maid. But she is tricked and sold into sexual slavery instead.

“The goal of the author, stated in the book, was to spread awareness for child sex trafficking and how common of an issue it is,” says Grau. She explains that author Patricia McCormick based “Sold” on her experiences in India and Nepal talking to, “child prostitutes that were working, charities that have rescued them, girls that have gotten out of it, and then families back in Nepal.”

As far as the review process, each committee member has received a list of the specific contested material within each book, including quotes and page numbers. When reading, committee members decide whether they deem this material “pervasively vulgar.” They also must apply the Miller Test, which reviews whether content appeals to the prurient interest of the average citizen, depicts or describes sexual content in a patently offensive way, or lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

“Sold,” like the other 59 books will go through three levels of review. Grau is currently paired with one other committee member to review the novel. The two communicate with each other before the next meeting, where they will present their consensus on the content of the book and what course of action they think should be taken.

“There’s a lot of different options,” says Grau, “we don’t have to restrict books or remove them what else we can do is we can put a trigger warning at the front of the book like if you check out this book you need to be aware of x, y, and z.” She also says that they could put an age restriction on the book, meaning elementary or middle schools would be prohibited from shelving it.

From there, they present their consensus to a sub committee of 16 members. If the sub committee agrees with the decision, it goes to the larger committee. If the sub committee does not agree, they assign the book to another pair who will repeat the process.

Eventually every book will make it to the larger committee, who will make the ultimate decision and release a full report.