5 Must-Read Banned Books for Your Holiday Shopping

As a high school English teacher, creating and fostering a safe space for my students to grow is a significant part of my role. Yet I worry about how Texas politicians are banning books — the very tools that my students use to learn about themselves and the world around them.

I know from personal experience: Books can change your life.

I grew up in a small border town along the Rio Grande. In ninth grade, my teacher assigned “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros. The story follows a young Mexican American girl who yearns for acceptance as she discovers her identity. Like her name, Esperanza, she gave me hope for understanding my own Latin and queer identities. 

Today, certain Texas public schools have banned the same book that resonated with my experience and fueled my passion for teaching. The act of silencing a meaningful work begs the question: Why censor a narrative that has the power to inspire?

Texas attempts to ban more books than any other state. This is undemocratic and wrong. It puts our young people at a major disadvantage as they pursue their own careers and chase their dreams.

We can't let our politicians dictate what we read — so this holiday season, consider gifting a banned book to your friends and loved ones. Below are five of my favorite banned books that deserve to be on any holiday shopping list:

“The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros 

  • Follow the portrayal of a young Latina navigating her way through a vibrant and challenging world told through poetic vignettes.
  • Why I recommend this book: It reflects on identity and culture with storytelling that explores the pursuit of dreams in a culturally vibrant neighborhood.

“And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson

  • With themes of love and acceptance, this heartwarming story introduces young readers to the beauty of diverse families as two male penguins create their own. 
  • Why I recommend this book: The combination of the sweet story and engaging illustrations makes the diverse perspectives accessible.

“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

  • Share the journey of two Mexican American boys as they navigate the complexities of friendship, love, and figuring out who you are.
  • Why I recommend this book: A coming-of-age masterpiece with relatable characters that explores the Mexican American experience and warms your heart.

“The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo

  • An authentic story of a young Afro-Latina finding her voice and herself through verse.
  • Why I recommend this book: It brings to light themes of identity, family, and self-expression by powerfully capturing struggles, triumphs, and everything in between.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

  • Dive into this classic dystopian fiction novel that sparks discussions about power, autonomy, and society.
  • Why I recommend this book: It captivates you by seamlessly weaving a narrative of a world that blurs reality and fiction—an immersive, imagined world that can feel all too familiar.

The ACLU of Texas is already hard at work in the courtroom, at the State Capitol, and in communities defending our right to read these and so many other books. Public support makes a huge difference.

Pledge your support for the right to read.

Instead of trying to shield students from reality, let’s prepare them for their future.