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Students in Texas Form Book Clubs to Counter Far Right Bans

“Why do we have to remove books … for the sake of white people’s comfort?” one student asked.

Students in Texas school districts are pushing back against 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, inquiring whether they had any of the 850 books that he deemed to be offensive or inappropriate in their libraries. Soon after, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) sent an order to the Texas Education Agency to investigate whether schools were providing students access to these books, describing them as “pornography.”

The books being challenged by right-wingers in the state are far from being sexually explicit – but many of them do explore themes like race, gender identity and sexuality, and depict characters that are nonwhite and/or non-heterosexual. Indeed, several students have noted that while some books have been banned for containing age-appropriate sexual content, several others have been allowed, so long as they feature heteronormative situations.

“They’re OK with heterosexual scenes, heterosexual ideas. But the second something turns slightly, slightly queer, slightly homosexual, it discomforts them,” said Maghan Sadeghi, a senior at a high school in Katy Independent School District (ISD), a suburb of Houston. “It’s the same thing with [people of color] viewpoints. ​​Why do we have to remove books about Black people and Asian Americans simply for the sake of white people’s comfort?”

Cameron Samuels, a nonbinary student who also attends a Katy ISD high school, added that these books are being singled out precisely because they depict people and identities that some parents or political groups don’t want acknowledged.

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

Sadeghi, Samuels and other students in the district have partnered with publishers and political groups in the area to distribute books that have been restricted. According to reporting from The Texas Tribune, more than 100 students are taking part in the project.

The publication also noted that students in other districts in Texas are taking similar steps to ensure their peers continue having access to banned titles. In Leander Independent School District, just outside of Austin, students have formed a banned-book 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 percent of Texans oppose removing books from school libraries, while only 29 percent say they support the idea.

The problem isn’t just in Texas, however. Conservative parents and groups across the U.S. have been demanding that school libraries ban books whose subject matter they are uncomfortable with.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, told Truthout earlier this year that from September 1 to December 1, 2021, the association recorded challenges to 330 books throughout the country. “The attempt is based on the myth that the U.S. is a monocultural society,” Caldwell-Stone explained, “but libraries and schools serve diverse populations. The right wing is pushing back against efforts to be inclusive.”

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