10 Books Texas Doesn't Want You to ReadBreaking News
tags: Texas, censorship, culture war, teaching history, Banned Books
Choosing what to read is both a small decision and one of utmost importance. For students, that choice is crucial in getting kids to read at all. Some books feel like magic, world-making and unforgettable. Some feel dangerous, upsetting. Many inspire both feelings, especially in young people. Reading is meant to be challenging, and literature should serve as a way to explore ideas that feel unthinkable, unfamiliar, and even illicit. So it is a matter of tremendous concern to witness government officials blatantly interfering with a free exchange of ideas within school libraries.
Matt Krause, a Republican in the Texas House of Representatives, has gone hunting in public-school libraries for any books that might generate “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of [a student’s] race or sex.” In October, he distributed a watch list of 850 books. The Texas governor, Greg Abbott, has in parallel called for a criminal investigation into the availability of “pornographic” books in public schools. What we’re witnessing is plainly a shakedown. And this week, a San Antonio school district pulled 414 books from its libraries in response to the ongoing pressure from Texas lawmakers and a vocal segment of angry parents to limit what children can choose to read.
Many of the books in question are about sex, abortion, race, and sexuality. Some are nonfiction; others are novels. They span several decades in American publishing. They include Pulitzer Prize winners and beloved classics—and, yes, works by more than one Atlantic writer. Here is just a small sampling of the books that government officials in Texas really, really don’t want kids to read:
• Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson
• How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
• The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel, by Margaret Atwood
• We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
• Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
• The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan, by Jenny Nordberg
• Reluctantly Alice, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
• Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
• The Year They Burned the Books, by Nancy Garden
• The Cider House Rules, by John Irving
This kind of challenge to reading material is neither new nor unique. Texas has seen a rash of book panics at schools across different districts in recent months, and the state recently passed a law that limits what teachers can teach about current events, particularly with regard to race and racism in America.
But the scope of Krause’s list and one of the biggest school districts in Texas’s capitulation to it are worrying. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years and never experienced anything like that before. I’ve never heard of that happening,” Mary Woodard, the president-elect of the Texas Library Association, told me. “People in our community have every right to request that something be reconsidered, because sometimes mistakes are made; not everything is placed perfectly; there may be something at an elementary school that would be better served for a middle-school population.” Still, there’s a meaningful difference between parents communicating concern directly to schools and the government stepping in with sweeping intimidation tactics.
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