“It’s an inspiring book,” she says wistfully.
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The New York Times bestseller may have been written by the first child to integrate an all-white New Orleans public school. But in Texas, it’s one of about 850 book titles under investigation by a state legislature.
“You have every right to say, ‘This book is not going into my house,'” says Koehler, who has owned and operated Blue Willow Bookshop for 25 years. “But when you say, ‘Your kid can’t read this book, your kid can’t go to the library to see this book,’ then we start to think about constitutional rights.”
The issue of books in school libraries is boiling hot in Texas right now, and there are no signs of it simmering.
Last week, State Representative Matt Krause of North Texas sent a letter to public school districts across the state. Krause asked school districts to find about 850 books on a list he sent to school administrators.
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He wants the schools to catalog the books, report how many they have, where they are, and how much money has been spent on the books.
Krause also demanded that districts find other books that focus on sexuality, sexual identity and sexual behavior. He wants districts to report to the General Commission of Inquiry, which he chairs, by Nov. 12.
“Having a list of 850 books because they have something to do with race or something to do with LGBT issues is a problem,” said Mandy Giles, a Houston mom of two non-binary children.
Giles, who founded Parents of Transgender Youth, said it’s appropriate to review books to make sure they’re the right choices based on the age of the students, but casting a wide net of 850 books clearly a problem.
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“People do this, just, ‘Let’s just pull them all,’ and I’m like, ‘Wait a minute, what if somebody’s kid wants to read that book?'” Giles said.
However, the research is not panned by everyone.
“I think this is the start of a conversation,” said Lisa Andrews Alpe, a parent at Spring Branch ISD. ‘I did look at that list. I think there are some books that are fine and others are not.’
Alpe, who is also a lawyer, has led some SBISD parents to make an effort to rate books in school libraries.
The neighborhood recently pulled a book called The Breakaways from the lower shelves. The subject of the graphic novel, which dealt with some homosexual relationships between teens, angered some parents.
Then, a few days ago, SBISD pulled another book, Gender Queer, from the high school libraries.
The autograph comic has graphic depictions of sexual acts. SBISD has released a statement regarding the move.
“We took a quick look at the book and found that it contained images that were ubiquitously vulgar,” school representatives said. “If a book contains ubiquitous vulgar material, the district can remove it from the libraries before a formal reconsideration process begins. That is why we removed it from our libraries because it contained ubiquitous vulgar material, pending the formal reconsideration process.”
Alpe said other books are also viewed by parents.
“We’ve probably found nearly 100 books that we’re concerned about,” she said.
At SBISD, every book submitted by a parent undergoes a full academic review by the administration.
However, it is less clear what Rep. Krause with his list of 850 books is going to do.
Calls and texts to Krause from ABC13 went unanswered.
On Monday, Governor Greg Abbott also sent a letter to the Texas Association of School Boards asking the organization to investigate books that may contain “pornography or other inappropriate” content.
Representatives of the association pointed out that it is an association of school boards and does not deal with specific curricula. That is up to the individual districts and their professional staff.
Meanwhile, back at Blue Willow Bookshop, Koehler said she will continue to carry books on all subjects and political affiliations, just as she has for 25 years.
“That’s why we read. We read so we can think,’ she said.
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