Banning Books in Texas

Some residents in Granbury, Texas, are lobbying to remove Princess Boy and This Day in June from the Hood County Library because they “indoctrinate children to the LGBT lifestyle” and “promote perversion.” Hood County Library Director Courtney Kincaid decided to keep the books on the shelves, but next week the commissioners’ court will meet to discuss whether or not to reverse her decision.

Book banning is one of the worst crimes one can commit against the human intellect, and undermines the free exchange of ideas that is one of the pillars of our democracy. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the commissioners’ court’s deliberations, but in the meantime, we thought we’d take a quick look at other books that have been either banned or challenged in Texas.

Farenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

Farenheit451TNWhile banning a book about book burning tests the limits of irony, in 2006 Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel was challenged in Texas and banned elsewhere throughout the country. In Conroe, the book was challenged due to its use of profanity, with one parent saying, “it shouldn’t be in there because it’s offending people…If they can’t find a book that uses clean words, they shouldn’t have a book at all.” The possibility that banning the book might be more offensive than the language it contained does not appear to have been a consideration.

The Working Poor: Invisible in America
David Shipler

The Working PoorTNTerrified of the risk of teaching high school children about the lives of Americans living in poverty, this non-fiction work by a Pulitzer Prize winner was challenged due to an anecdote of one woman’s experience with sexual abuse as a child and abortion during high school. The Working Poor was one of several books suspended last September in Highland Park High School during National Banned Books Week.

Esperanza Rising
Pam Muñoz Ryan

Esperanza RisingTNThe award-winning novel set in post-Revolutionary Mexico and Great Depression Era Southern California about 12-year old Esperanza Ortega has recently been challenged in Texas and North Carolina. One parent felt the novel “promoted illegal immigration” and was not age appropriate, while other parents were upset that the book addressed issues like racism, immigration, and “ethnic class struggles,” as though this were not, you know, what literature is for.

And Tango Makes Three
Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

And Tango Make ThreeTNTwo very real male chinstrap penguins named Roy and Silo raised a chick named Tango together, and the authors turned it into this charming children’s story. And Tango Makes Three topped the lists of banned books in the United States and in Texas over the last few years. Reasons cited were that this book has anti-family values and “promotes the homosexual agenda.”

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Bill Martin Jr.

Brown BearTNIn what is perhaps the most bizarre entry on this list, in 2010 the State Board of Education removed Bill Martin Jr.’s Brown Bear picture book series from the third grade curriculum, because someone else named Bill Martin happened to write a book entitled Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation. This in spite of the fact that Bill Martin Jr. died four years before Bill Martin’s book was even published.

Santa Claus Around the World
Lisl WeilSanta ClausTN

This non-fiction children’s picture book teaches children how Christmas is celebrated in other parts of the world. But because it included Krampus, a horned and beastly figure from a centuries-old German Christmas tradition, some parents tried to put it on the chopping block.

The Adventures of Captain Underpants
Dav Pilkey

Captain UnderpantsTNWhile most grade school boys embrace gross and irreverent stuff, this 11-part series was the most challenged of all books in 2012, for its offensive language, unsuitability for its age group, and violence. The series includes references to undergarments, toilets, bodily excrement, and mischievous rebellion against authority, and naturally it is beloved by its target audience of elementary school-aged boys.

Leprechauns Don’t Play Basketball
Marcia Thornton JonesLeprechaunsTN

Like the Harry Potter series, the references to magic and wizardry in Leprechauns Don’t Play Basketball resulted in the book being challenged in Nederland ISD.

Katy Perry
Sarah TieckKaty PerryTN

The biography of pop star Katy Perry was challenged for being offensive to religious sensitivities in Eagle Mountain Saginaw ISD during the 2011-2012 school year. Over what we will assume were the vigorous objections of the student body, the book was ultimately retained.

Join the ACLU of Texas “Banned Books Club”

By Dotty Griffith
ACLU of Texas Public Education Director

This week is marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, an annual event that celebrates the freedom to read and calls attention to the wealth of creative expression that is stifled when books can be barred from library shelves. The ACLU has always believed that our country functions best when citizens exercise their right to freely explore the world around them, and, we’ll be blogging about banned books and censorship all week. Join the conversation using #IReadBannedBooks.

If there’s one thing harder to put down than a good book, it’s a good book that’s been banned by those who would tell others what they should and shouldn’t read. To celebrate Banned Books Week, the ACLU of Texas publishes a report every year about the books banned, restricted and challenged in Texas schools. We gather this information through open records requests to Texas’ more than 1,100 independent school districts.

Fortunately, there is good news this year! The 16th edition of Free People Read Freely reveals that teachers, librarians and administrators are working with parents to cut down on the numbers of books that are banned. More schools than ever refer challenges to academic committees instead of to an administrator taking unilateral action or to the politically sensitive school board. Some schools actually require parents to read the books that they wish to challenge. (Often that is enough to convince parents that the books have merit!)

Often hot button social issues –  such as LGBT rights, and pop culture topics tinged with romance, like vampires – ignite would-be censors. But classics, like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, inevitably still draw complaints. Of course, we respect the right of parents to determine whether a book is suitable for their children and applaud cooperative efforts by teachers, librarians and parents to find alternate titles in those circumstances. We firmly believe, however, that one parent’s beliefs should not dictate what others may read.

This year we inaugurated the ACLU of Texas Banned Books Club on our Facebook page during the 30th annual Banned Books Week. We are reading and posting about our favorite banned books and encouraging comment on our page – check out our page to join the conversation. And be sure to check out the banned book quote of the day on the ACLU Nationwide Facebook page, as well.

Welcome to Banned Books Week, Sept. 25 – Oct. 2

By Jose Medina
ACLU of Texas Media Coordinator

Banned Books Week starts today. And as the ACLU of Texas does each year, it has released “Free People Read Freely,” a report on challenged, restricted and banned books in Texas public schools.

Why we do this
Books are a tangible representation of our freedom of expression. Banning books is often an expression of fear – fear of differences, fear of new ideas and thoughts, fear of the unknown. No matter how well-intended, banning books – especially by those who won’t even read the ‘offensive’ material to see if the educational value meets or exceeds the weight of the objections against them – is censorship and infringes on the rights of a free society. Parents should exercise their rights to decide what is appropriate reading material for their own children; but they overreach when they seek to decide for other parents what is good for all children.

This year we’re happy to report only 20 books were banned in Texas schools. But that’s still 20 cases in which censorship was successful.

Some examples of documented bans in this year’s report include “The Gossip Girl” series, Judy Blume’s “Forever…” and Lauren Myracle’s “ttfn.” See the full list in our report.

In observance of Banned Books Week, we’re asking you to pick up a book and read. Don’t have time? Fine, then give the gift of a book. There are also plenty of Banned Books Week events all over the country, including those listed below and sponsored by the ACLU of Texas. For more Banned Books Week events all over the country, visit the American Library Association Banned Books Week Web site.

Now get readin’.

ACLU of Texas Banned Books Week Events

Corpus Christi
What: Readings of banned books
Where: Half Priced Books, 5425 South Padre Island Drive
When: Saturday, Sept. 25, 4:30 p.m.

Celebrity readers will include Reverend Phil Douglas of the Unitarian Universalist Church and Leanne Libby, columnist for the Caller-Times.

What: Houston Chapter Banned Books Event
Where: Central Library, 500 McKinney,
When: Saturday, Oct. 2, 11 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.

11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Banned Books Discussion: J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye”

12 p.m. – 3 p.m.
2nd Annual Banned Books Readout
Celebrate your freedom to read with local educators, poets, authors, avid readers and more join members of the Houston Chapter of the ACLU of Texas and staff of the Houston Public Library to read passages from your favorite banned books.

3:15 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.
Banned Books Movie: James and the Giant Peach
A special presentation of the film based on Ronald Dahl’s classic book. Directed by Tim Burton. Rated PG.

San Antonio
What: Readings and discussions
Where: Central Library Gallery, 600 Soledad St. (Downtown)
When: Thursday, Sept. 30, 7 p.m.

Dotty Griffith, Director of Public Education for the ACLU of Texas will discuss 2010 Banned Books Report and the continuing impact of “To Kill a Mockingbird” 50 years later.

Event is free and open to the public.