Juneau shops pull local artist’s books in wake of threatening, anti-trans notes

books for sale in Juneau
Books for sale at Kindred Post on April 4, 2023. (Yvonne Krumrey/KTOO)

Several Juneau stores have pulled a series of popular children’s books from their shelves after the man who illustrated them was arrested for allegedly leaving threatening, anti-transgender notes around town.

This week, Kindred Post and Alaska Robotics both made statements supporting the trans community and condemning illustrator Mitch Watley’s actions as described by police. 

“I’m a close friend of Mitch’s wife. And it’s really hard for us to take her books off of our shelf, but they have his name on them,” said Pat Race, owner of Alaska Robotics. “And so they’re gone.”

Watley’s wife wrote the books that he illustrated. 

Race said he wants the transgender community to feel supported in Juneau. 

“They do not deserve to be persecuted or to live in fear,” Race said. “Nor should we live in fear of them.”

Race said Alaska Robotics will make a donation to an organization that supports transgender youth in Juneau. 

“Our store sold Mitch’s artwork, and we’ve made money off of that. And that feels strange, given the context here,” Race said. 

Christy Namee Eriksen is the owner of Kindred Post. She said they also took all of Watley’s work off the shelves after discussing it with their staff.

Eriksen said this event is just one of multiple attacks on the trans community. 

“We know that it’s happening within a climate of anti-trans hate speech and legislation that’s already occurring, not just in our community, but also across our state,” Eriksen said. “As we’re seeing with the (Alaska) House bills that have been introduced, as well as our nation.”

Hearthside Books owner Olga Sofia Lijo Serans told KTOO said they too have removed Watley’s books.

“We want the trans community to know that we are behind them, they are part of our community,” Lijo Serans said. 

She also said that she feels for Watley’s wife.

Rainy Retreat owner Tori Weaver said they have also taken down all of his books and aren’t sure what they plan to do with them.

The owners of Wild Spruce Art Works, a local art distribution company that sells Watley’s artwork, declined to comment.

Watley faces one felony count of terroristic threatening.

A preliminary hearing in the case is set for April 11.

KTOO is our partner public media station in Juneau. Alaska Public Media collaborates with partners statewide to cover Alaska news.

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