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The political landscape in the United States is troublesome. A pandemic turned partisan, pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol building believing “stolen” election lies from the former president and fundamental rights – like access to safe abortion – are being stripped from people at a state and local level. But, nothing keeps me up at night more than a GOP-led effort to ban books in schools, particularly those dealing with race, sexuality and gender identity.

In Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott joined a bevy of statewide officials pushing to remove books he described as “pornography” in a letter sent to Dr. Dan Troxell, executive director of the Texas Association of Schools Boards. 

Texas Republican State Representative Matt Krause also sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency in late October asking if schools in the state had any of the 850 books listed on a 16-page spreadsheet. According to an analysis by Book Riot, the books dealt with human rights, sex education and LGBTQ+ people. 

One of the books on the list was “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe. Another Texas lawmaker, Jeff Cason, also took issue with the book, calling it “sexually explicit” in a statement calling on Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton to open an investigation. According to CNN, the book, which has already been banned in schools districts across the country, is a coming of age memoir about gender and sexuality. 

Author Maia Kobabe explained in a Washington Post Op-Ed that “one of the charges thrown against the book was that it promoted pedophilia – based on a single panel depicting an erotic ancient Greek vase. Others simply called it pornography, a common accusation against work with themes of queer sexuality.”

“By high school, I had met multiple out gay, lesbian and bisexual people, but I didn’t meet an out trans or nonbinary person until I was in grad school. The only place I had access to information and stories about transgender people was in media – mainly, in books,” Kobabe added, highlighting the need to keep such literature in schools. 

The GOP-led effort has gone as far as some officials calling for books to “burn.”

“I think we should throw those books in a fire,” said Rabih Abuismail, a school board member in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. A colleague of his, Kirk Twigg, agreed, saying he wanted to “see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff.”

What is this “bad stuff?” The book that sparked debate in Spotsylvania County was “33 Snowfish” by Adam Rapp. The book deals with mature matters – like sexual abuse, prostitution and drug addiction – but is still recommended for ages 15 and up. It was also awarded Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association.

Yet, Abuismail would go on to say public schools “would rather have our kids reading gay pornography than about Christ.”

I can think of nothing more un-American than the censorship we are seeing in schools right now. Books have never divided anyone – as the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week theme went: “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us."

Opinion Reporter

Zachary Jarrell has been with The News Record since 2020 as a staff reporter and now opinion reporter. He has interned with Gateway Journalism Review and The National Memo.