An analysis of book bans across the U.S. has found that Texas had more prohibitions than any other state in the country.
The analysis, conducted by PEN America, a nonprofit organization that promotes free expression and human rights, found that 1,648 titles have been banned by schools across the entire country. A lot of these books had LGBTQ themes, featured Black or Brown characters, or explored themes of feminism.
No state had banned more books than Texas. Across 22 districts in the state, 801 books were banned between July 2021 and June 2022. According to reporting from The Texas Tribune:
The most frequent books removed included “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, which depicts Kobabe’s journey of gender identity and sexual orientation; “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison; “Roe v. Wade: A Woman’s Choice?” by Susan Dudley Gold; “Out of Darkness” by Ashley Hope Pérez, which follows a love story between a Mexican American teenage girl and a Black teen boy in 1930s East Texas; and “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson, a personal account of growing up black and queer in Plainfield, New Jersey.
Florida took second place, limiting or barring 566 titles in total. Pennsylvania took third place in the analysis, banning 457 books, although a majority of the bans in that state took place in a single district in conservative York County.
Jonathan Friedman, the director of PEN America’s free expression and education programs and the lead author of the report, condemned the book bans by these and other school districts.
“This rapidly accelerating movement has resulted in more and more students losing access to literature that equips them to meet the challenges and complexities of democratic citizenship,” Friedman said in a statement.
The banning of books is “especially harmful to students from historically marginalized backgrounds, who are forced to experience stories that validate their lives vanishing from classrooms and library shelves,” Friedman added.
Students in some of the Texas districts that have banned books have taken action against their school libraries and curricula for denying access to these titles. In Katy Independent School District, for example, more than 100 students formed a club to distribute banned books to their peers last school year.
Maghan Sadeghi, who was a high school senior earlier this year in the district, told The Texas Tribune why she felt it was necessary to take part in the student-led project.
Schools are “OK with heterosexual scenes, heterosexual ideas,” she noted. “But the second something turns slightly, slightly queer, slightly homosexual, it discomforts them. 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?”
A majority of Texan residents oppose efforts to ban books, according to polling conducted by the University of Texas/Texas Politics Project earlier this year. 62 percent of residents in the state said they opposed districts taking action to remove certain books from school libraries, while only 29 percent said they supported the bans.
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