Texas School District Strikes More Books From Reading Lists
Comes just months after PEN America-led campaign to reinstate books banned or threatened by Leander Independent School District
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(New York, NY) — A Texas school district announced this week that it would remove or suspend nine books from its secondary school book club readings lists. This comes as part of a months-long process in which the Leander Independent School District, near Austin, has removed or threatened to remove a number of books including titles from Jacqueline Woodson, Margaret Atwood, and Carmen Maria Machado, among others. PEN America led a campaign against those removals and today again reiterates its call for the district to immediately reinstate all the books stricken from its book club reading lists (a full list of the removed books is below).
The removals come in response to a campaign from some local community members against books they say are “inappropriate” for children. Many of the removed or suspended books address difficult but important issues related to race or gender, including racial discrimination, LGBTQ+ relationships, mental health, and sexual assault and violence. This week’s announcement brings the full list of books removed from the district’s book club reading lists to 13, and the list of books suspended to six. The district’s decision to remove these books represents a disappointing capitulation to these censorship demands, PEN America said today.
“This is a sad day for literature and for students’ freedom to learn,” said Jonathan Friedman, director of free expression and education at PEN America. “It is disheartening to see a school district closing off avenues for learning and engagement across lines of difference. Not only is the removal of these books harmful to the literary community as a whole, it also contributes to the further minimization of the issues that people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals face. The district has an obligation to open students’ minds to the difficult issues these books reckon with, not close them off to diverse lived experiences. After all, how can we expect young people to learn about diversity, if we do not expose them to diverse perspectives in literature?”
PEN America previously sent a letter to the leaders of the school district in April, co-signed by 25 authors, illustrators, and contributors, as well as the PEN America Children’s and Young Adult Books Committee, protesting the district’s decision to remove books and questioning its review process.
The new books to be removed, announced this week, include: None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio; Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez; Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson; Brave Face: A Memoir by Shaun David Hutchinson; In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado; Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir by Nikki Grimes; and Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson.
The Lottery by Miles Hyman (author and illustrator of graphic novel adaptation of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson)
Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and illustrated by Ellen T. Crenshaw
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel by Margaret Atwood and Renee Nault
Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd
None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez
Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
Brave Face: A Memoir by Shaun David Hutchinson
In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado
Ordinary Hazards: A Memoir by Nikki Grimes
Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed
My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
American Street by Ibi Zoboi
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez