Some Highlights from the Texas Banned Book List

Texas Banned Books

Texas lawmakers have released a list of 850 books they find objectionable and are ‘investigating’ for a potential ban in their public schools.

For many of us, we look at potentially banned books and see a hot new reading list!  Surely if these titles have angered conservatives, there must be something interesting within them, you know?  There sure are a lot of them on here, though. 

To help sort through this incredibly long list of books, we’re going to highlight a few that may be of interest to our audience here at The Geekiary.  We’ve reviewed many of them, or are at least familiar with a great deal of them already, so we have a few worth noting. 

In addition to the usual ban on LGBTQ+ history, abortion, and analysis of racism, there’s a lot of queer novels, comic books, and even some manga on the list.  It seems like progressive geeks have angered Texas conservatives across many different mediums this time around.  Congratulations, nerds, we’ve made it to the big time and scored a ton of spots on a banned book list!  A hearty congratulations to us all!

So buckle up and let’s dive into these titles.

Wandering Son

Wandering Son is the first title on the list to jump out at me because I’ve discussed it many times in my LGBTQ+ anime and manga panels at conventions.  The manga explores two children nearing puberty who begin to realize they are not comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth.  It’s gained a lot of popularity over the past decade because of how well it explores this topic and how very real and relatable the characters feel.

The fifth grade. The threshold to puberty, and the beginning of the end of childhood innocence. Shuichi Nitori and his new friend Yoshino Takatsuki have happy homes, loving families, and are well-liked by their classmates. But they share a secret that further complicates a time of life that is awkward for anyone: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy.

It’s easy to see how this content would rile up conservatives, so I’m not entirely surprised that it made it on the list.  But I am surprised that conservatives have begun to notice manga in the first place.  When I was young, reading manga was an easy way to fly under the adults’ radar and explore themes that some may not want me to explore.

Times have changed, though, and conservatives have noticed our little comics from Japan that we’ve been consuming for decades can tackle some pretty serious issues.  And their reaction to this revelation, of course, is to ban them.

The Bride Was a Boy

Wandering Son isn’t the only manga on the list. The Bride Was a Boy is also on there.  Now the cool thing about this one is… I hadn’t heard of it before I found it on the list.  So thank you Texas Book Banning Fanatics! This one is going on my reading list.

Now since I haven’t read this one, I can’t really tell you if it’s actually any good quite yet.  So I’ll just leave you with this official description from its Amazon listing and you can decide if it’s worth a shot.  Once I get through it myself I may even write a review for it, so keep your eyes out for that.

A heartwarming transgender love story, based on true events! A diary comic with an upbeat, adorable flair that tells the charming tale of Chii, a woman assigned male at birth. Her story starts with her childhood and follows the ups and downs of exploring her sexuality, gender, and transition–as well as falling in love with a man who’s head over heels for her. Now, Chii is about to embark on a new adventure: becoming a bride!

Ship It

We are very familiar with Ship It around here.  We’re pretty deep into the shipping scene to begin with, so when a novel about our community was announced we were very eager to review it.  And our co-admin Jamie did so back when it was released in 2018, though she did have some criticisms of it at the time.  Still, it’s a rare look at our subculture and it’s interesting to see that we’ve really angered conservatives with our existence.  Shouldn’t be surprised, though, I guess.

Here’s an excerpt from Jamie’s review:

I was really excited about Britta Lundin’s Ship It, a YA novel heavily focused on fandom and convention culture featuring an LGBTQ+ romance. Unfortunately, I was incredibly disappointed with the characters and the way fandom – particularly shippers – were presented. It is a good starting off point for a much-needed discussion about entitlement in fandom, but I think it unintentionally portrays fans in a negative light and could add fuel to some flame wars.

[…]

Ship It is the story of Claire, a fan of a show called Demon Heart that sounds almost exactly like Supernatural. She is a fic writer of some prominence who writes slash between Heart and his nemesis Smokey. In the early part of the book, she doesn’t give specific numbers, but her Tumblr apparently has a follower count in the thousands. She’s completely isolated in her little Idaho town, because in 2018 no one else in this school watches television or has a Tumblr. One day she learns that Demon Heart will be doing a convention tour that includes Boise. She’s excited to go to the convention and meet other fans, but is resolved to not ask a question at the panel because she doesn’t have the nerve. But a statement made by the showrunner compels her to the microphone where she asks about the possibility of SmokeHeart going canon. Perfectly audible to the audience, Forest – the actor who plays Smokey – calls her crazy. Claire runs from the panel in tears. (Something like this actually happened at a Supernatural panel in 2013.) 

Regardless of Jamie’s criticism of the book, however, I think we can agree that it shouldn’t be banned.  First and foremost, I’m of the opinion that books should never be banned, but even more specifically to this case, it’s simply a novel about a unique subculture that just happens to have LGBTQ+ themes.  It’s pretty darn innocuous, all things considered. 

V for Vendetta

Now this is a title that most people would be pretty familiar with, and it’s certainly not new to book ban lists.  Still, V for Vendetta is worth noting because it’s an absolute classic and Alan Moore is, quite simply, a legend.  A friend of mine noted that Alan Moore would be pretty proud to be on this list, and I’m inclined to agree.

Set in a futurist totalitarian England, a country without freedom or faith, a mysterious man in a white porcelain mask strikes back against the oppressive overlords on behalf of the voiceless. Armed with only knives and his wits, V, as he’s called, aims to bring about change in this horrific new world. His only ally? A young woman named Evey Hammond. And she is in for much more than she ever bargained for…

The Handmaid’s Tale – Graphic Novel

What’s interesting to note is that the original Handmaid’s Tale book isn’t on the list, but the graphic novel somehow is.  I’m not sure why they decided to potentially ban one and not the other, but that’s what they’ve done here.  Most people would likely be quite familiar with this story as the Hulu adaption of it has been part of our cultural zeitgeist since it premiered back in 2017.  For many, the original book was also required reading in school, though it does end up on a lot of banned books lists already, so your mileage in regards to familiarity with it before the Hulu adaption came out may vary.

There are three things that are certain in life: death, taxes, and a version of Handmaid’s Tale being on banned books lists.

Wonder Woman Unbound

Yes, a book about the history of Wonder Woman has made it on the list.  This either made it on the list for its overt feminist critiques or the bondage imagery, or perhaps a bit of both.  Either way, this is another one that feels pretty darn innocuous in the long run.  However, while it’s interesting to note that a book about the history of the hero is banned, none of her actual comics are banned.  Curious, isn’t it?  They obviously have no problem putting comics on the list, but somehow the Wonder Woman comics weren’t quite enough to make it.  A book about them is though.

Zenobia July

Zenobia July made it on our Pride Reads list in 2019, so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that if we found it to be a quality LGBTQ+ book, that conservatives would be angry about it.  

Here’s an excerpt from Jamie’s review:

A middle grade novel with a trans protagonist, Zenobia July is a charming, honest examination of gender identity – with a mystery subplot to boot.

Zenobia July is the story of Zenobia, a young trans girl from Arizona who moves to Maine to live with her aunts after the sudden death of her father. The book deals with some very complex issues in what I think was a very well done manner. Zenobia is struggling to come to grips not only with her gender identity, but also being the new girl at school while still grieving for her father – and her mother. She is trying to be the best version of herself while still figuring out who that is.

For middle grade readers who may not have been exposed to the LGBTQ+ community, this book does a good job of explaining and normalizing. It helps that most of the important characters in the story are queer, or if not, are extremely accepting and supportive of those who are.

The Art of Being Normal

The Art of Being Normal is another one that was reviewed by Jamie (she has great tastes, what can I say?).  Every time a book or comic we’ve reviewed here ends up on the list, I get a little bit of a thrill and more and more proud of the work we do here.  And now that we have a nice little list to work from, we may even expand our coverage of some of these banned titles.  Thanks, Texas!  We love the recs.

Here’s an excerpt from Jamie’s review:

Since he was little, David has only ever really wanted one thing: to be a girl. He keeps this a secret from everyone except his two best friends, quietly gathering information and arguments for when he finally has the courage to tell his parents, yet never managing to do so. It isn’t until he meets transfer student Leo that he learns he isn’t alone in the world.

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson is a wonderful book that introduces two trans characters: David, a pre-transition trans girl, and Leo, a pre-op trans boy. For all that both main POV characters are trans, this is clearly a book aimed at cisgender people like myself. It gives a realistic portrayal of the struggles that trans people face, but it does so at a very basic level. For instance, David struggles with how to tell his family, while Leo deals with the fallout of a forced outing and assault at his previous school.

Cemetery Boys

This title has made it onto the list by recommendation from Geekiary co-admin Khai, who says it’s a great one.  After reading the official description of it, I’m inclined to agree.  It sounds incredibly interesting!

A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his traditional Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas’s paranormal YA debut Cemetery Boys.

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

Lana Wachowski

I absolutely adore the Wachowski siblings.  As the original creators of The Matrix, they first gained prominence being known as “The Wachowski brothers,” but now we know them both as their authentic selves – The Wachowski sisters.  Somehow this book about one of them – Lana – has made the list.  Perhaps conservatives don’t want to reveal that the phrase ‘red pill,‘ which they love to use so very very often, originated from a story written trans women?  Okay, probably not. It’s probably just run-of-the-mill bigotry, but I do love to bring up that The Matrix is a trans allegory whenever I have the chance.

And Tango Makes Three

Anyone familiar with banned book lists should be familiar with this one.  Yep, that’s right, folks, it’s the gay penguin book.  Based on a true story, And Tango Makes Three is about two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who adopt a baby penguin of their own and raise it together.  This book was my introduction to banned book lists back in 2005, and I’ve been extremely interested in such lists ever since.  It’s one of the most commonly banned books around the world.  How dare these penguins be gay and raise a cute little baby!

Sadly, the two penguins that the book was based on broke up about the time the book was released, but their same-sex love story and adorable family will live on forever on the pages of And Tango Makes Three and on banned books lists everywhere.

This list is just the ones we here at the Geekiary recognized, but the list is 850 titles long and we’re sure we’ve missed a lot of great ones.  Are there any on the list that you enjoyed or would want to recommend?  Let us know in the comments!

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.


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