Texas teacher provides students with secret bookshelf of banned literature

The now-former student who helped build the secret bookshelf said he picked out "a lot of gay books" to include.

Published: January 29, 2024 1:51pm

A Houston teacher has been providing students with a secret bookshelf of banned literature since 2021, when a Texas state representative sent public schools a list of hundreds of books he wanted to be banned.

The Texas State Board of Education passed a policy last year banning reading materials it deems as "sexually explicit, pervasively vulgar or educationally unsuitable books in public schools," but the teacher told NPR that she still plans on continuing to grow her secret library. 

The teacher and the students mentioned in the article Monday were not named out of concerns that they could "become a target for far right-wing groups," according to the outlet. 

"It does make me nervous," the teacher with the secret shelf said. "I mean, this is absolutely silly that I am not free to talk about books without giving my name and worrying about repercussions."

One of the students interviewed said the literature on the secret bookshelf opened his mind to relatable characters and situations.

"Just to see Latinos, like LGBTQ... That's not something you really see in our community, or it's not very well represented at all," the student said.

The teacher started the shelf when then-state Rep. Matt Krause provided schools with a list of 850 books he wanted them to ban for potentially making "students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex."

The teacher said she became furious and called on friends to help her make the bookshelf with all of the books Krause wanted banned. She then asked a student, who came out as transgender during high school, to help her put it together. 

"The books that make you uncomfortable are the books that make you think. Isn't that what school is supposed to do? It's supposed to make you think?" she asked. 

The student who assisted in building the secret bookshelf has since graduated, but told the outlet that he went through the list of controversial books and picked out the ones he thought looked interesting. 

"And then she gave me her [credit] card and I bought them. It was a lot of gay books, I remember that," he said. 

Follow Madeleine Hubbard on X or Instagram.

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