During the past year, Texas banned a total of 801 books in the context of the controversial debate on the teaching of critical race theory in schools. And while the Lone Star State isn’t alone in the nationwide book groups, it leads every other US state in the most banned books on record.
Recently, public and school libraries across the United States have come under attack for collecting books critical of race, sexuality, and other issues in contemporary American politics. States like Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wyoming have joined Texas in these efforts, creating a unprecedented number of book ban requests over the past 20 years.
Parents in Texas have called for the removal of these books, including some in the Katy Independent School District. They removed books they deemed “offensive” without any official criticism. A right was signed last year by Gov. Greg Abbott that bars K-12 teachers in public schools from discussing current issues of race, society, and American law. The Critical Race Theory Bill joins other regressive policy decisions such as the state abortion ban and HB 25a bill that targets transgender youth.
State Representative Jared Patterson and 26 other Republican members of the Texas House sent a letter to every public school principal in Texas “asking them to pledge not to knowingly associate, purchase, or associate with vendors who have supplied child pornography to public schools”, and used the graphic novel by Maia Kobabe Gender Queer: A Memoir for example. To make matters worse, says rep Matt Krause sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency asking to see school library budgets and whether they house any of the 850 pounds listed on a 16-page spreadsheet.
Books on the list include coming-of-age stories featuring LGBTQIA+ characters, which have been deemed sexually explicit and pornographic by parents and Republican politicians. In defense of this material, National Coalition Against Censorship sent a letter to Patterson calling his attempt to censor books to intimidate and deceive all school districts in Texas.
“Rep. Patterson and his co-signers are failing to protect students from obscene and explicit content. They are censoring books and depriving students of a comprehensive education that is essential to preserving a healthy democracy,” the statement read.
Book advocates across the country continue to fight censorship using petitions, protests, and direct pressure on school board members.
Curious about other headlines that rocked Lone Star’s political table? Here are just 10 of the many books that are considered banned or have been unofficially removed from Texas school districts.
In the late 1940s, a young Sylvia Mendez is forced to overcome the evils of segregation when her family moves to Westminster, California, and is denied the neighborhood school.
Reason given: “propaganda, racially insensitive language, anti-police”
2. What if it was us By Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli
A planned summer in New York turns into a whirlwind and bizarre love story between two unsuspecting characters, Ben and Arthur in this comic novel for young adults.
Reason cited: “homosexuality, sexually explicit content, profanity”
3. Me and Earl and the dying girl By Jesse Andrews
Two high school filmmakers join forces to cheer up their classmate Rachel after she’s diagnosed with leukemia in this coming-of-age flick. The 2012 book became a popular movie in 2015 starring Thomas Mann, Olivia Cooke and RJ Cyler.
Reason cited: “vulgarity, offensive language, sexually explicit and degrading content for women”
This heartbreaking story made headlines when it was made into a hugely popular Netflix series in 2017. The original book, about a young high school girl’s motivations behind her suicide, hauntingly depicts the devastating repercussions of a trauma in adolescence.
Reason cited: “pornographic, suicidal”
Although entirely non-fiction, this book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson is on the banned books list because of its timely exploration of the American caste system and its impacts on our society.
Reason cited: “racially insensitive language”
6. lawn boy By Jonathan Evison
The story follows 10-year-old protagonist Mike, who has a sexual experience during a youth group meeting with another 10-year-old boy. Ashamed of the incident into early adulthood, Mike finally takes ownership of the experience and revisits it through a sometimes uncomfortable but humorous lens during his journey to self-actualization.
Reason cited: “blasphemy, pornography, gambling, homosexuality”
Perhaps the most contested book in the United States, this graphic novel describes Kobabe’s personal journey with gender identity and sexual orientation. This book is an “intensely cathartic autobiography” that traces their journey from the confusion of teenage crushes to the difficulties of dating, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and coping with the trauma of pap smears.
Reason cited: “obscene and pornographic images”
Set in the 1930s, this novel tells a love story between two teenagers, a Mexican American girl and an African American boy in East Texas.
Reason cited: “explicit sexual content, profanity”
9. ghost boys By Jewell Parker Rhodes
ghost boys tells the story of a 12-year-old boy named Jerome who is shot dead by a policeman who mistook his toy gun for a real one. As a ghost, Jerome observes the devastation of his family and communities and the wake of a movement against brutal murder and racism.
Reason cited: “propaganda, anti-police”
Angie Thomas’ first best-selling novel, The hate you give follows a teenage girl who, after witnessing her black friend killed by the police, grapples with the aftermath of his death. The novel eventually became a movie in 2018 and is a sobering story about racism, police brutality and activism.
Reason cited: “pervasive vulgarity and racially insensitive language”