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For high school student Gabrielle Izu, the Texas public school book ban feels personal.
The books that Texas is aiming for – primarily novels that focus on discussions of race, sexual orientation and gender identity – tell the story of Izu’s past and future. The 17-year-old high school student is Asian American, Black and Hispanic, and bisexual, and she hates having her identity or that of her peers censored.
“I ignored [my sexuality] During a very long time. And I think as a young girl, if a book had shown me that this is a life that could be lived, I could have had a lot more peace and accepted bisexuality,” said Izu, who dates James E. Taylor High. School in the Katy Independent School District near Houston.
Here and there, college students in Texas are forming their own book clubs to read what adults want banned. Books like Margaret Atwood”The Handmaid’s Tale“Ashley Hope Perez”out of darkness“and Carmen Maria Machado”In the dream house.” Books that, until last fall, were easy to find and read.
In Katy ISD, students distributed hundreds of adult-challenged novels in Texas. They get the books for free from a political advocacy organization and publishers. And at Leander ISD near Austin, students meet in a banned book club to discuss these books. Some students are beginning to attend school board meetings to fight for the freedom to choose what they want to read.
More than a hundred Katy ISD students of varying ages, races and gender identities met after school to discuss the bans and pick up disputed novels. Among the books they read is that of Kalynn Bayron “Cinderella is deada novel that follows the coming-of-age story of a queer black teenager. Izu, who saw herself reflected in the book, said her heart broke when schools in Texas targeted her for a ban.
“I felt like my identity was considered dangerous because of the banning of a story like that. What about my story? Am I seen as a bad influence?” Izu said. as something that should be shameful?”
Texas parents and politicians say they’re protecting students with book bans. Many students, including Cameron Samuels, a senior at Seven Lakes High School at Katy ISD, don’t buy it.
“It’s clear that these books address issues of race and LGBTQ identities, and that’s the exact reason why some people are seeking to remove these books from libraries and ban students from accessing them,” Samuels said. , who helped with distribution efforts. “And these policies have dire consequences for us because they keep us grappling with our queer identities.”
Katy ISD students showed strong support during the events, Samuels said. But not all parents are happy, and some have even tried to enter the school to disrupt student discussions about Texas book bans, they said.
“As far as I know, parents have been at the center of the movement to ban books and remove them from libraries, where students have been at the forefront of advocating for access to these books,” said Samuels.
Books about race are also targeted, especially after Texas lawmakers passed a social studies law to target what they called critical race theory, though the law doesn’t specifically mention it. critical race theory is a university-level discipline that examines how racism is embedded in policies and systems. The new law states that a teacher “cannot be compelled to discuss a widely debated and currently controversial matter of public policy or social affairs” in public schools. Although this law applies primarily to the social studies curriculum, some also attempt to apply it to any book found in a school library.
Katy ISD has temporarily removed the “new childwhich explores how more subtle or indirect discrimination affects black students in a predominantly white school. The school district took action after a parent claimed the book contained harmful content on critical race theory.
The district put “New Kid” back on the shelves last semester, but Samuels said only students in grades five and up are allowed to check it out.
Samuels, who is non-binary, said the novel gave them comfort, as they often felt isolated as one of the few students in their school who used the pronouns they/them.
“I often felt lonely and experienced microaggressions,” Samuels said. “There’s no reason solving these problems should be something students can’t do or are forbidden from learning about.”
Katy ISD does not allow students to distribute book the forbidden district. Samuels said it was condescending that those in power decide what students can and cannot read.
“As students, we need to take ownership of our education and not let others decide for us what resources we can access and what topics we can learn about,” they said.
At a recent Katy ISD school board meeting, students filled the room demanding the district return books to libraries. Samuels and other students plan to continue protesting book bans at a rally at the Capitol on March 12.
“It’s censorship. It’s bad,” Izu said. “It’s condemning things that shouldn’t be condemned.”
Book bans have exploded across the state and nation this school year. In October, the State Representative. Matt KrauseR-Fort Worth, called on schools to disclose if any of about 850 book titles were in their libraries. He said books “that might get in the way of students” should also be identified.
Weeks later, Governor. Greg Abbott asked the Texas Education Agency to investigate the availability of “pornographic” books in school libraries.
Maghan Sadeghi, a James E. Taylor High School alumnus who works with book distribution efforts, said Abbott’s statement sounds “like a bunch of ignorance.” She notes that her AP Literature class requires a lot of reading that references sex. In “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, it is suggested on on several occasions, staff rape patients. In “Hamlet,” sex before marriage is compared to a worm invading a flower before it blooms.
“They’re okay with heterosexual scenes, heterosexual ideas. But the second something turns a little, a little queer, a little homosexual, it bothers them. It is the same with [people of color] points of view,” Sadeghi said. “Why do we have to suppress books about blacks and Asian Americans just for the comfort of white people?
At Leander ISD, students meet every two weeks to answer a similar question: Should this book be banned?
Vandegrift High School sophomores Ella Scott and Alyssa Hoy started the school’s banned books club after reviewing the list of books their district intended to ban last year. The district was removing some of their favorite books from classroom libraries, and as a result, students began discussing decisions they felt were made by the district without them.
“I loved ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,'” Scott said, referring to Atwood’s novel about a totalitarian society that forces fertile women to be raped so they can carry the offspring of elite couples to term. . It is now one of his school’s restricted books. “I love this book. Forever. It’s one of my favorites. Seeing it on the list was definitely disorienting.
Leander ISD has so far removed physical copies of 11 book titles from classroom libraries, but nine of them still reside in the school’s main and digital libraries, according to Matt Mitchell, communications coordinator for Leander ISD. .
During study hall, dozens of students of all grades gather to discuss the plot and purpose of one of the forbidden books, as well as who should have access to its plots. So far, they generally agree that banned books have aided their education and should be freely available in the classroom.
Often, students discuss how each book introduces them to new perspectives or even historical events.
Pérez’s now-banned novel “Out of Darkness” follows a love affair between Naomi, a Mexican American high school student, and Wash, a black teenager, in the days leading up to the 1937 gas explosion at New School. London, still one of the worst national disasters in history. Many book club students were unaware of this tragic event in the town of New London, East Texas.
“These are very powerful stories,” Hoy said. “A lot of the time, those tough decisions and tough scenes are why they’re so powerful and so meaningful to so many people.”
Last semester, the club asked its members to buy their books. Recently, the club set up an Amazon wishlist to fund book purchases. Within 24 hours, the donated funds paid for the band’s books. Hoy said the community has supported the club throughout the semester.
“Eventually we hope our club will not be needed,” Scott said. “We just hope that our voices and our opinions will be taken into account.”
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