A surge in book bans across America in recent years has been particularly supercharged in Texas, which saw 800 books removed from schools between July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022. In fact, the Lone Star state leads the nation in book bans in classrooms and school libraries, according to PEN America, a nonprofit literary and free expression organization that tracks banned books.
The unprecedented number of books being challenged in Texas is “a direct reflection of the very divisive times we are living in,” Shirley Robinson, executive director of the Texas Library Association, told DFWChild when speaking about what parents should know about this hot-button issue.
So makes people so fired up? What’s in these books that are considered by some to be so problematic? Here’s a look at top banned books—or titles that have been removed from campus circulation or banned pending investigation—at schools in Texas. You can find the full list in PEN America’s Index of School Book Bans.
Out of the Darkness
By Ashley Hope Pérez
Number of bans from Texas ISDs: 9 including Birdville, Granbury and Keller ISDs
This young adult novel, loosely based on Romeo and Juliet, follows the real-life 1937 New London school explosion in East Texas. In the book, a Mexican girl and Black boy fall in love, breaking all of the rules about interracial romance during this time history. In 2021, the Out of the Darkness was the fourth most challenged book in the U.S., restricted for depictions of abuse and sexually explicit material.
Gender Queer: A Memoir
By Maia Kobabe
Number of bans from Texas ISDs: 9 including Birdville, Keller and Prosper ISDs
This graphic novel chronicles the author’s journey to identifying as nonbinary and asexual. The memoir is explicit in places, and covers topics like gender confusion, sexual identity, unsettling sexual encounters and sexual fantasies.
Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)
By L.C. Rosen
Number of bans from Texas ISDs: 8 including Birdville, Frisco and Keller ISDs
The young adult novel follows Jack, an unapologetically queer teen who writes a sex advice column for an online site and faces a stalker who sends threatening letters. Throughout the novel, Jack’s sex advice column appears, with questions and answers about a variety of sexual topics.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
By Jesse Andrews
Number of bans from Texas ISDs: 7 including Granbury and Keller ISDs
This novel’s main character and narrator is a 17-year-old high school student whose mother urges him to befriend a classmate suffering from leukemia. Despite the serious content, the story is told through humor and a distinctive teenage voice, but has been challenged for vulgarity, offensive language and sexually explicit content.
All Boys Aren’t Blue
By George M. Johnson
Number of bans from Texas ISDs: 7 including Denton ISD
This series of personal essays chronicles the author’s journey growing up Black and queer, grappling with issues like sexual identity, toxic masculinity, consent and relationships. The book has been banned because of its LGBTQ content, profanity and for material considered sexually explicit.
By Cathy C. Johnson
Number of bans from Texas ISDs: 6
This coming-of-age graphic novel follows a middle school soccer team’s C roster. The novel includes kids of many identities, such as a transgender student who comes out in the book. There are also scenes of kissing. The book was banned for content considered sexual in nature.
By Jonathan Evison
Number of bans from Texas ISDs: 5 including Prosper ISD
A semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel centered on a young Mexican American man, who faced hardship ever since his childhood and is going through a phase of self-discovery. The book was banned for passages that were sexually explicit, including descriptions of a sexual encounter between two fourth-grade boys.
By Mike Curato
Number of bans from Texas ISDs: 5 including Keller ISD
This graphic novel draws on the author’s real-life experiences during middle and high school. On his path of self-discovery, he navigates friendships, deals with bullies, and grapples with his sexuality. It contains sexual references and slurs against gay men and was banned for being sexually explicit.
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out
By Susan Kuklin
Number of bans from Texas ISDs: 5 including Birdville ISD
This nonfiction book is a compilation of Kuklin’s photos of and interviews with transgender and nonbinary teens and young adults. It’s been banned for LGTBQ content, offensive language and for material considered sexually explicit.
We Are the Ants
By Shaun David Hutchinson
Number of bans from Texas ISDs: 4 including Birdville, Granbury and Keller ISDs
A gay teenage boy is abducted by aliens and given the chance to choose to save the world from destruction by pushing a red button. The book deals with themes including sexuality, grief, bullying and teen suicide. It was banned for profane language and sexually explicit passages.
This One Summer
By Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
Number of bans from Texas ISDs: 4 including Birdville ISD
In this coming-of-age graphic novel, two pre-teen girls explore life on the cusp of adolescence. The book deals with teenage pregnancy, miscarriage and a suicide attempt. It was banned for including LGBTQ characters, drug use, profanity and material considered sexually explicit.
By Lauren Myracle
Number of bans from Texas ISDs: 4 including Birdville and Keller ISDs
The third installment in a series of books that follows the lives of high school friends, told through their instant messages and chats. Drinking, sex and other mature themes are part of the book, which has been banned for its inclusion of sexual content.
Drama: A Graphic Novel
By Raina Telgemeier
Number of bans from Texas ISDs: 4 including Granbury ISD
This book tells the story of a seventh grader navigating tween hardships like crushes, friendships and middle school drama. It includes gay and bisexual characters. The books has been banned for LGBTQ content and material considered sexually explicit.
Top image by Reneé Higgins