A Users Guide to All the Banned Books in Texas Schools

Over the past year, schools and libraries across the country have banned a slew of books. And while this is a statewide phenomenon, no state schools have embraced the practice of banning certain stories and perspectives from their young people, as is the case in Texas. According to a list compiled by literary and human rights organization PEN America, 801 bans were imposed in Texas between July 1 last year and June 30. That’s a huge number! Compare that to Alaska or South Carolina, for example, which each banned a book. (Both are Maia Kobabe’s award-winning comic memoirs Gender Queerwhich has also been banned in nine counties in Texas.)

That number — 801 banned books — does not refer to individual titles, but rather to the number of times a school district has issued a ban. Some titles such as Gender Queer, appear several times after being banished from Canutillo (fifteen miles northwest of downtown El Paso) to Clear Creek, 785 miles east of it. Others, like Brent Sherrards Final takedown– a slim, out of print volume from a small Canadian publisher about a boy facing juvenile detention – only once published (in the North East Independent School District of San Antonio, the most ardent book banner in the state). Some are banned in school libraries, others in classrooms. Some have been removed pending an investigation which the school district may or may not have the time and resources to conduct in a timely manner. Most have been banned by administrators, while others are the result of a formal challenge by a parent or other community member. In either case, the guiding principle remains the same: ensuring students are not exposed to ideas their parents do not want them to consider by making it increasingly difficult to access the volumes that contain those ideas. (Teens, of course, are known to respect such rules and rarely search for such materials themselves.)

As PEN America’s full list shows, banning books has become a popular concern among some of our polarized constituents — but it hasn’t always been the case. Back in the halcyon days of, uh, March 2021, some of Texas’ political leaders vehemently opposed the idea of ​​book bans when it came to Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the publisher of Theodore Geisel’s work under his famous pseudonym, went on to stop releasing new copies of a handful of the author’s titles that contained racial stereotypes. (Ted Cruz sold autographed copies of Green eggs and ham in protest!) That might as well have been ages ago though, as the length and breadth of the list shows. Texas has banned books about boys and books about girls, as well as books where gender is more of a whirlpool. They are forbidden books about sex and books about race and books about those whose white hoods hide their faces. There are banned classics and new books and books in between; there are banned bestsellers, award winners and rarely seen books. They are banned books about what the Nazis did to the Jews and beloved old books by the great Judy Blume. They are banned comics and prose books and books of poetry; slender volumes are forbidden and heavy tomes are forbidden. Texas has indeed banned a large number of books! And here is a quick guide to the books that children are not supposed to read in schools.

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A PEN America notes that these are just the incidents reported to the group — the reality of book bans likely extends further across the state. But here are some trends.

Books on gender identity and homosexuality

kobabes gender Queer, which explores the author’s journey to realizing that his identity is beyond binary genders, is one of only a handful of books to make the list nine times. However, it’s not the only book on gender identity and same-sex romance to be banned in a Texas school or library. George M. Johnson’s “Memoir Manifesto” about his coming out, All boys are not blue, appears seven times; Susan Kuklin’s non-fiction collection of 2014 interviews, Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak OutIt appears five times, as does the Mike Curato comic book memoir flaming. Even titles that seem downright clinical in their exploration of the history of gay people in America are on the list – Jaime A. Sebas Gay Issues and Politics: Marriage, the Military, and Discrimination in the Workplace, a 64-page exposition on the subject of the same name, has been banned twice. Four books by different authors with the title gender identity have all been banned in at least one district. It’s not just big titles that are being banned – LC Rosen’s queer rom-com Knave of hearts (and other parts) was banned in eight counties while The runawaysCathy G. Johnson’s lightweight graphic novel about a children’s soccer team is banned in six for including a transgender boy among the players.

Books about straight people but with sexual content

Like the controversy around The runaways Suggesting this, book banners seem to assert that any portrayal of gay or transgender characters — or factual exploration of those identities — is inherently inappropriate for children. However, when it comes to cisgender straight people, things need to get a little more specific. Books like Ashley Hope Pérez’s From the darknessJesse Andrews Me and Earl and the dying girland Lauren Myracles l8r, g8r all appear on the list (nine, seven, and four times respectively) because they touch on sexual themes, show teenagers talking about sex, or depict sexual abuse. In non-fiction, books that openly discuss sex or its consequences make the list – including titles by Margaret O. Hyde Safer Sex 101: An Overview for Teens, Donna Langes Taking Responsibility: A Teen’s Guide to Contraception and Pregnancy, and Chloe Shantz-Hilke My girlfriend is pregnant! A teenager’s guide to becoming a father (which looks like a useful book for children in this situation!). And abortion, in any context, can lead to a book being banned: Melody Rose’s Abortion: A documentary and reference work and Johannah Haneys The Abortion Debate: Understanding the Issues relatively straight stories are on the list as well as books on the history of roe v. Wade. Even father-friendly political thrillers can make the list when it comes to abortion — bestselling author and occasional Fox News contributor Richard North Patterson Protect and defend also received an admin challenge.

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books about racing

The passion for “critical race theory,” which describes an academic framework not taught in public schools, means it doesn’t matter how respected a book on race is—such titles are on the banned books list. between the world and me Ta-Nehisi Coates’ National Book Award-winning, book-length letter to his young son about growing up black is on the list, as is his We Ruled Eight Years: An American Tragedy, which contains essays on races in America. Nor does one have to be a National Book Award winner to make the list for Writing About Race – Duncan Tonatiuh’s History Book for Young Readers, Separated is never the same: Sylvia Mendez and her family’s fight for desegregation, makes the list, as does the memoirs of Mychal Denzel Smith The invisible man has watched the whole world: the education of a young black man. Books by Ibram X. Kendi How to become an anti-racist and Shaped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America are both banned in several districts. Fiction Bans include some of the most celebrated books in American literature: Toni Morrisons Lover and The bluest eyeSherman Alexies The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indianand the white author William Styron The Confessions of Nat Turner have all been removed from libraries. Poetry is not exempt either—And still I get upthe third collection of poems by the great Maya Angelou, is also on the list.

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Books about political violence, historical or speculative

If you’re a high school student interested in learning more about the history of the Ku Klux Klan, you may need to look outside your school library for the most renowned book on the subject for young adults: Susan Campbell Bartoletti They called themselves KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group is off the shelves in three counties. Understanding how those roots are influencing the US today might also be a challenge – Vegas Tenold’s Everything You Love Will Burn: Inside the Rebirth of White Nationalism in America, which traces the history of racial violence from the early days of the Ku Klux Klan to the events of 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, is also on the list in two districts. Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning History of the Holocaust, the comic book Mouseappears on the list, as does Ari Folman’s graphic adaptation of Anne Franks Diary of a young girl. Even in fiction, books that deal with fascist violence are banned – DC Comics’ graphic novel V for Vendetta, by legendary comic book creator Alan Moore, is banned in three districts for some reason. (The film adaptation, which also deals with anti-fascist themes, is also banned in China and Russia.)

Books where the mood is wrong

Judy Blume’s for decades Then again, maybe I won’t, a puberty story from a boy’s perspective originally published in the 1970s, is a classic of the coming-of-age genre. The book hasn’t changed in fifty years, but open storytelling about the problems high school students often face makes a book in Texas a destination. Books about misfit youth like Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park or Stephen Chbosky’s The perks of Being a Wallflower both appear. Perennial banned book list titles such as Of mice and men appear, as does John Irving The cider house rules. The graphic novel by DC Comics Y: The last man also makes it onto the list, maybe because it’s a sci-fi story where everyone with a Y chromosome dies, and that would be a bummer? Hard to say, but in addition to banning books for acknowledgment that teenagers are thinking about sex, or out of a desire to remove queer people and discussions of race from the conversation, a few things make the list just because of vibes.

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