Donna Bockoven had never done anything like this, but when the manager of the bookstore refused to discuss the book, her emotions overpowered her. The book she held in her hands was The Last Day of Summer, a collection of photographs of nude, clearly minor children in sexually explicit poses. Mrs. Bockoven and her husband Jeff learned of the book on the Christian radio station in Lincoln, Neb., where she runs a daycare center in her home and Mr. Bockoven works for a feed mill.
After Mr. Bockoven heard about the book, he went to the city's Barnes & Noble Booksellers to see for himself. "I asked to see the manager," he says. "I told him, 'This looks like child pornography to me.'" The manager wasn't interested in talking, Mr. Bockoven says, and asked him to leave the bookstore.
So Mrs. Bockoven and her mother returned to the store later that day, and after flipping through the volume, they agreed with Mr. Bockoven that the book was inappropriate. "If I took those pictures of my children and went down on a street corner and sold them, I would be arrested," Mrs. Bockoven, whose four children are 1, 2, 7, and 8 years old, told WORLD. "I felt like if it was OK for it to be there, they should have no problem talking to me about it."
The manager, however, wouldn't discuss her concerns with her either. "I was attempting to talk to him. He was kind of walking away." So Mrs. Bockoven, angered about the photographs of the children and by the manager's attitude, ripped up the book, starting with the pictures that were most disturbing and then tearing out handsful of pages at a time. The cashier summoned the manager, who called police, who ticketed Mrs. Bockoven for vandalism.
While Mrs. Bockoven expressed her displeasure in a more dramatic fashion than others, she and her husband aren't alone in their concern about that book and two other collections-the self-titled Jock Sturges and Radiant Identities-by California photographer Jock Sturges. Focus on the Family, which produced the broadcast calling the Bockovens' attention to the book, has also distributed a fact sheet about Mr. Sturges in which the organization urges its constituents to find out who in their community sells the books and call on the local U.S. attorney to prosecute the stores. "In our opinion," the release says, "the sale of Sturges's publications clearly involves the exploitation of children and should be prosecuted as illegal child pornography." Melinda Hughes, a correspondent for Family News in Focus, produced at least three reports about the Sturges books.
In Wichita, Kan., the executive director of Kansas Family Research Institute has also issued an alert, and he pulls no punches in his characterization of the books. "To our knowledge, this represents the first time a major bookseller has carried child pornography in an attempt to push the line as far as it can be," David Payne says. "This represents, really, a new low. It is incumbent on us to take a stand."
Mr. Payne has been bird-dogging the local U.S. attorney and the district attorney to take action, but as of last week, after several months of phone calls, nothing has been done, he says.
His group may organize pickets of the two offices, and also may picket bookstores that sell Sturges's books, but that has its disadvantages. "The irony of this," he says, "is the net effect is to promote the sale of the thing you are trying to prevent."
In Lincoln, Mrs. Bockoven, a Lutheran, has received support from her church, and she may organize a picket at the Barnes & Noble, and she may start a petition drive. The manager of that store, Bob Condello, was out of the store last week and no other managers would discuss with WORLD the book-ripping incident, which occurred at 6:30 p.m. on July 20, according to Lincoln police. Mr. Condello's residential phone number is unlisted.
Barnes & Noble declined to prosecute Mrs. Bockoven on the condition that she pay for the $30 book and that she stay away from the store. Store officials later tried to force Mrs. Bockoven to write a note of apology, which she refused to do. If she had it to do over again, she says, she would take a different tack for her protest, like calling the U.S. attorney, which is what she would urge others to do. "I did wrong," she says. "I tore up a book that wasn't mine."
At the time, however, that was the only way she felt she could make her point. "I want people to know this is not a normal thing," Mrs. Bockoven says. "I felt for those children in the book, that they were being robbed, not just the one time he took the picture, but every single time someone looked at the book."