The Texas READER act passed earlier this year, and under it, not only are vendors being required to rate every title available for purchase–including requiring every bookseller to rate every edition of a book ever sold to a school–but schools will be required to remove books deemed “sexually explicit, pervasively vulgar, or educationally unsuitable.” The law is currently being challenged in the courts, and the judge is expected to render a decision on its legality before it takes effect September 1, 2023.
The Texas READER act, HB 900, was authored by Jared Patterson. Book banners across the state have been eager to see it implemented, and they’ve been preparing for how to get their hands on materials in libraries. One legislator has gone so far as to develop an entire substack dedicated to helping individuals find the books deemed “inappropriate” in libraries. Christin Bentley, State Republican Executive Committeewoman from SD-1 and Chair of the subcommittee for the legislative priority Stop Sexualizing Texas Kids, created the “Protect Childhood” Substack and on it, includes a list of 400+ titles of books that should immediately be pulled from schools come September 1.
There is little question of the political persuasion of the site, as it includes draft letters to be sent to GOP representatives across the state to encourage their counties are in compliance with the new law. It also includes an entire toolkit for helping people identify books out of compliance with the law–and recall, the law is written so broadly that the phrase “educationally unsuitable” can mean anything not directly tied to curriculum.
So what’s on the list?
Any and everything you can imagine, from titles that have been heavy hitters in the book ban world to those which might be more surprising. Among the titles are the graphic novel edition of Anne Frank’s Diary to books about what happens during puberty to The Collected Poems of Allen Ginsberg, 1947-1980. But one thing that unites the titles on the 17 page document–which you can access in full here, updated as of this month–is that most of the “reviews” of these titles come right back to BookLooks, the crowdsourced review site created and maintained by none other than Moms for Liberty.
The titles without Book Looks reviews come from the database of biased book reviews maintained by No Left Turn in Education/Utah Parents United (RatedBooks.org), Texans Wake Up (a group that’s stated mission is to “protect your family’s conservative Christian values” and which refers to public schools as “government” schools) and Bentley’s own reviews (thedaughter.substack.com). Not a single one of the books on this list are reviewed from a credible, unbiased, professional review source.
This is the list being shared by a state GOP leader, perpetuating the misinformation by right-wing nationalist groups. It also undermines and delegitimizes the professional education, experiences, and knowledge of educators and librarians not only across the state, but across the country as a whole.
Bentley claims that the books on the list are not there “because of the ideas expressed in them or the author, but rather content that is sexually explicit, pervasively vulgar, and/ or educationally unsuitable.” Yet, it is fascinating how the books are all the exact ones Moms for Liberty targets that are primarily queer themed or authored.
Bentley and other members of the “Stop Sexualizing Texas Kids Subcommittee” are chomping at the bit to help right-wing nationalists throughout the state to raid the libraries and delegitimize education that doesn’t align with their values. This tool kit is their first step.
The judge for the lawsuit against HB 900 has set its second hearing date for August 28.