October 6, 2022

Texas students form book clubs to counter far-right bans

Students in Texas school districts are fending off right-wing book banning campaigns by forming book clubs and distributing banned titles to their peers.

Last year, Rep. Matt Krause, a Republican in the state legislature, sent a letter to school districts in Texas asking if they had one of 850 books he deemed offensive or inappropriate in their libraries. Shortly after, Governor Greg Abbott (R) sent an order to the Texas Education Agency to investigate whether schools offered students access to these books, describing them as “pornography”.

The books challenged by the state right are far from sexually explicit – but many of them explore themes such as race, gender identity and sexuality, and portray non-white characters and/or non-heterosexual. Indeed, several students noted that while some books were banned for containing age-appropriate sexual content, several others were allowed, as long as they present heteronormative situations.

“They’re okay with heterosexual scenes, heterosexual ideas. But the second something turns a little, a little queer, a little homosexual, it bothers them”, says Maghan Sadeghi, a high school student from the Katy Independent School District (ISD), a suburb of Houston. “It’s the same with [people of color] perspectives. Why do we have to suppress books about blacks and Asian Americans just for the comfort of whites? »

Cameron Samuels, a non-binary student who also attends a Katy ISD high school, added that these books are specifically targeted because they portray people and identities that some parents or political groups don’t want to acknowledge.

“These policies have dire consequences for us because they keep us grappling with our queer identities,” samuel said.

Sadeghi, Samuels and other students in the district have teamed up with area publishers and political groups to distribute books that have been restricted. According to reports from The Texas Grandstandmore than 100 students participate in the project.

The publication also noted that students in other districts in Texas are taking similar steps to ensure their peers continue to have access to banned titles. In the Leander Independent School District, just outside Austin, students have formed a Banned Books Club, which meets every two weeks to discuss books that have been removed from classroom libraries.

Most Texans disagree with campaigns to ban books from school libraries. A University of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll from February showed that 62% of Texans oppose removing books from school libraries, while only 29% say they support the idea.

The problem isn’t just in Texas, however. Parents and conservative groups across the United States have demanded that school libraries ban books whose subject matter does not make them comfortable.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, Told Truth earlier this year that from September 1 to December 1, 2021, the association recorded challenges to 330 pounds nationwide. “The attempt is based on the myth that the United States is a monocultural society,” Caldwell-Stone explained, “but libraries and schools serve diverse populations. The right rejects efforts to be inclusive.