Banned Books in Texas Many people are upset about Texas’ ban on books and magazine articles that offend their political and religious views, but it is perfectly normal for such legislation to exist. The TCRP report outlines book bans in Texas for reasons ranging from sexually explicit passages to the use of firearms. While there is an appeals process, few people know about it, and those who have been banned books have probably never seen them. By sending banned books to prisoners, you can let them know what they are missing and help organize around the issue.
Book banning conflict with political and religious views
There are many reasons why Texas school districts are banning certain books. For example, parents might ban “Maus” because it’s offensive to their political or religious beliefs. But parents may not realize that their children have access to similar material through their cell phones or the internet. Banning a book will never keep a child from seeing it, even if the parents want to. In Texas, a book may not be objectionable to you, but it could be harmful to their children.
However, conservative leaders have been ramping up their efforts to ban certain books. Among the more popular titles banned last year are children’s books with LGBTQ themes. Despite the fact that these books are not offensive to conservatives, liberals worry about overreaching state authorities in the name of morality. Liberals say such efforts violate the First Amendment, limit free speech, and stunt mental development. In addition, they argue that many books are already banned in Texas, so why do conservative leaders keep banning them?
Texas has become a national hub for such initiatives. In January, Republican Matt Krause called for schools to disclose 850 books to prevent children from reading them. He also demanded that schools check whether they had copies of these books, saying that “anything that might make kids uncomfortable” is an unacceptable material for public school libraries. Meanwhile, Texas governor Greg Abbott called for a probe into the content of school libraries, citing reports that pornographic material could be being circulated.
The book-ban campaign has reached public libraries, schools, and libraries across Texas. It has begun as a local initiative that has gradually increased in intensity. In 2021, there will be seventy-nine attempts to ban books across the state. Most of the challenged books are written by Black authors or center on characters from minority groups. It’s no wonder that Texas has become a hotbed for this anti-bullying campaign.
In a recent article, the Houston Chronicle examined book reviews in the state. The analysis contradicts the claims of the national parental rights movement. The newspaper obtained information from nearly 600 Texas school districts, which educates more than 90% of the state’s public school students. It found 2,080 book reviews of eighty unique titles over the last school year. The Texas book bans are causing students to feel personally threatened.
It’s perfectly normal
It is a worrying trend that politicians are scrutinizing school textbooks for alleged obscenity. Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Texas Education Agency to create new regulations to remove “pornography” from public schools. The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) responded that they had no regulatory authority over school districts. In response, the governor directed the Texas Education Agency and the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) to create statewide standards to eliminate books that contain pornographic content.
The American Library Association issues a list of challenged books every year. Those books are controversial and may have caused controversies in the community. Some Texas school districts have decided to remove such books. However, many Texas school districts have not banned books for a variety of reasons. In some cases, banned books have been banned for the most blatantly obvious reasons. In Texas, the books in question have sparked a disproportionate number of protests.
However, the Supreme Court ruling doesn’t define these terms, and some of the books banned are controversial in other ways. Two of the most prominent books are “Child Soldier,” a graphic memoir about a kidnapping and escape from militia. In both cases, the book has a “racist” element. But in both cases, the text is not inherently offensive. And censorship of books isn’t only unjust, it’s harmful.
In fact, conservative parents have taken their anger and frustration over the controversial content of certain books into the classroom. Some have even filled out formal challenges to have them removed from the library. Ultimately, school administrators were forced to review the books and decide whether or not they’re appropriate. NBC News recently sent public records requests to nearly 100 Texas school districts to obtain information about the books in schools. Among the 86 formal requests for books to be removed from the library, a majority came during the last four months of last year. A handful of titles were targeted in multiple districts.
School board members and librarians play a major role in the decisions to ban books. However, the American Library Association and the National Coalition Against Censorship both have guidelines on the review committees and the process for formal challenges. In addition, they outline how to retain the books in circulation during the reconsideration process. This process is usually initiated by community members. A ban on a book doesn’t necessarily mean the books will be removed, but it can make the process of reviewing a book less fair.
In the Night Kitchen
A new timeline of banned and challenged books has been created by the ALA. A new timeline traces the history of “In the Night Kitchen,” a 1985 Maurice Sendek book, from its publication to its ban in Texas. NCAC has not conducted an official review of the book, but it does urge the county to return it. Here’s a quick look at some of the other banned books, and what they mean for kids.
First published in 1970 by Harper and Row, In The Night Kitchen is a classic children’s book. It is the work of illustrator Maurice Sendek, who infamously said that he does not write for children, but he did. In The Night Kitchen is a children’s book about a boy who falls asleep and wakes up in a bakery. He meets the bakers and tells them he’s milk.
While the censorship history of Sendek’s book varies by state, the story is universal to children with vivid dreams. Since its publication in 1970, the book has been the subject of controversy, largely due to the nudity of the titular character Mickey Mouse. It has received many awards and has even been controversial since its original publication. Despite the controversy, In The Night Kitchen is a wonderful book worthy of reading in elementary schools. It also offers a fascinating history of censorship. While some states outright banned In The Night Kitchen, others censored it by the audience, or both.
The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) is concerned about the removal of two books from the Llano County, Texas library system. The books have been cited for inappropriate content. The library’s decision to remove the books was a response to the protests from Katy parents and Llano County school officials. In the Night Kitchen, banned books in Texas, and the controversy surrounding it, are a good example of how the library system has an obligation to protect the interests of children.
City of Thieves
The creator of HBO’s Game of Thrones, David Benioff, has written a fantasy novel titled City of Thieves. In response to the book’s widespread condemnation, Fort Myers High School banned the book from its classroom. The school had given parents a period of time to consider the content and appropriateness of the book before banning it. Students were able to voice their concerns, and some requested an exchange for a different book.
The book is set in a totalitarian theocratic society where women are forced to bear children for the male ruling class. Another book, “Mein Kompf,” is an anti-Semitic manifesto written by Adolf Hitler. While these books are not directly relatable to the average person, they still have their share of lessons to teach. City of Thieves is also a coming-of-age novel about the loss of innocence and the emergence of maturity.
Krause’s letter is a far cry from the political climate of the day, but the state’s reaction is understandable. Libraries in Texas are already under fire from the recent challenges to books. Texas’ recent challenges were unprecedented. However, a recent letter from a Texas tech librarian highlights a similar story involving a district in Tennessee – and noted that in January the board banned “Maus” as well. Although the letter doesn’t mention the books cited in Krause’s tweet, it does mention ‘The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel’ and ‘Maleficent’.
Book bans have spread across the country. Many of these efforts have been inspired by conservative backlash against school programs and lessons on race, gender, and sexuality. Books with explicit sexual content have attracted the most attention both nationally and locally. The most recent book ban attempts have targeted young adult novels with a gay or transgender character, or books that depict a transgender character kissing in bed. Those books also contain explicit images and depictions of molestation.