Conservative parents have swarmed school board meetings in Texas and across the country in recent months to call for the removal of library books that deal with race, racism, sex, gender and sexuality. Some parents have taken it a step further, filling out paperwork to formally challenge the appropriateness of library books and forcing school administrators to review them.
Read more: Books on race and sexuality are disappearing from Texas schools in record numbers
NBC News sent public records requests to nearly 100 school districts in the Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin regions — a small sampling of the state’s 1,250 public school systems — and found 86 formal requests to remove books from libraries last year, the vast majority coming during the final four months of the year. Several titles were targeted in multiple districts.
Drawing from those records, below is a list of 50 books that Texas parents tried to ban in 2021.
1. “Drama,” by Raina Telgemeier
A parent asked administrators at the Spring Branch Independent School District in Houston to pull this graphic novel, which features gay and bisexual characters, because she claimed it might lead young students “to question their sexual orientation when they don’t even comprehend what that means.”
2. “When Wilma Rudolph Played Basketball,” by Mark Weakland
A parent in Prosper, a Dallas suburb, said this illustrated children’s book, which touches on the racism that Olympian Wilma Rudolph experienced growing up in Tennessee in the 1940s, should be removed from school libraries because “it opines prejudice based on race.”
3. “Lawn Boy,” by Jonathan Evison
A parent in Plano said this coming-of-age novel about a Mexican American character’s journey to understanding his own sexuality and ethnic identity should be banned because it contains “profanity, pornography, gambling, homosexuality.” The parent claimed the book encourages “admiring people with low morals and values, and hate of other people.”
4. “Better Nate Than Ever,” by Tim Federle
A parent in Leander, an Austin suburb, asked for this book, which features a subplot about a teenager who’s starting to notice his attraction to other boys, to be removed because the parent didn’t believe “books should discuss sensitive/controversial topics such as gender, sexuality.”
5. “Five, Six, Seven, Nate!” by Tim Federle
A Leander parent suggested replacing children’s books that mention gender identity or sexuality, including this one, with “classics,” such as “White Fang,” “The Indian in the Cupboard,” “The Swiss Family Robinson” and Shakespeare.
6. “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison
This classic novel by the Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison should be banned from schools, according to a parent in the Fort Worth suburb of Birdville, because it includes a graphic description of rape.
7. “Out of Darkness,” by Ashley Hope Pérez
This novel, about a 1930s East Texas romance between a Mexican American girl and a Black boy, isn’t suitable for teens, a Birdville parent wrote, because “it depicts a graphic sexual experience between minors.”
8. “Ghost Boys,” by Jewell Parker Rhodes
According to a Houston parent, reading this novel about a Black boy killed by police might cause white children who attend the Spring Branch Independent School District to “feel ashamed based on color of their skin.”
9. “l8r, g8r,” by Lauren Myracle
Told entirely through instant messages among three high school students, this novel has no place in schools, according to a parent in the Dallas suburb of McKinney, because it contains a “description of oral sex with minors,” among other sexually explicit passages.
10. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” by Jesse Andrews
A parent in the Houston suburb of Katy wrote that this book, which chronicles the relationship between a teen boy and a girl with leukemia, includes “obscene language” and could lead students to “become over sexualized and objectified.”
11. “White Bird: A Wonder Story,” by R.J. Palacio
A parent in the Spring Branch ISD said this graphic novel — about a Jewish teen living in France after Nazis seized power — should be banned because it’s “biased” and could lead to the “skewing of a young child’s mind.”
12. “Ground Zero: A Novel of 9/11,” by Alan Gratz
A parent in Prosper said this novel, which tells the story of 9/11 and its aftermath from the dueling perspectives of an American boy and an Afghan girl, should be removed from schools because it “depicts American soldiers as callous, evil and terrorists” and because the author mentions the racial or ethnic identities of every character.
13. “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,” by Alison Bechdel
This illustrated memoir, which recounts the author’s coming of age as a lesbian, is unsuitable for schools, according to a parent in Birdville, because it includes graphic descriptions of sexual violence.
14. “Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)” by L.C. Rosen
A Katy mom asked administrators to remove this book, about a 17-year-old gay student who has a lot of sex and isn’t ashamed of it, after reading explicit passages aloud at a school board meeting: “We cannot unread this type of content,” she said, “and I would like to protect my kids’ hearts and minds from this.”
15. “City of Thieves,” by David Benioff
A parent in San Antonio asked the Northside Independent School District to ban this work historical fiction, set during the Nazis’ siege of Leningrad, because it includes “pornographic imagery” that is “not suited for the majority” of readers, the parent wrote, adding, “… unless you’re into that.”
16. “Gender Queer,” by Maia Kobabe
This illustrated memoir by a nonbinary author, which includes sexually explicit cartoon images, triggered attempted bans — and even threats of criminal charges — in several Texas school districts.
17. “This One Summer,” by Mariko Tamaki
A Birdville mom wanted this book, a graphic novel featuring LGBTQ characters, removed from libraries because, she said, it “has a recurring theme of oral sex.”
18. “We Are the Ants,” by Shaun David Hutchinson
This coming-of-age novel about a gay teenager came under fire in Birdville when a parent complained that it has explicit descriptions of “masterbation and genitalia.”
19. “The Breakaways,” by Cathy G. Johnson
Parents in Keller and Spring Branch complained that this graphic novel, which features a transgender character, should be off-limits for young students because it includes images of children kissing in bed.
20. “All Boys Aren’t Blue,” by George M. Johnson
This memoir by a queer Black author was flagged for removal by a group of Katy parents because it includes descriptions of molestation and sex between men.
21. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
A parent in McKinney asked the district to remove this coming-of-age novel because it includes descriptions of homosexuality, date rape and masturbation.
22. “Michelle Obama: Political Icon,” by Heather E. Schwartz
A Katy parent asked to have this children’s biography of the former first lady banned at every grade level because, the parent said, it unfairly depicts former President Donald Trump as a bully and because Obama’s reflections on race gave the impression that “if you sound like a white girl you should be ashamed of yourself.”
23. “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You,” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
This young adult adaptation of “Stamped From the Beginning,” Kendi’s National Book Award-winning historical examination of racism, was flagged for removal by a parent in Katy, who wrote that the children’s book “is littered with completely fabricated and conspiracy theory views on history” that make it seem as if “all historical events of the past were a result of racism.”
24. “New Kid,” by Jerry Craft
A Katy mom asked to ban this graphic novel about a Black seventh grader at a mostly white school. She claimed that, because it includes references to microaggressions, the book is “about critical race theory, which is forbidden by Texas law.”
25. “Class Act,” by Jerry Craft
A Katy mom said this graphic novel, the second in a series, should be removed from schools because it will make white children feel guilty and “kids will be brainwashed that one race is superior than the other.”
26. “Salvage the Bones,” by Jesmyn Ward
In asking to ban this book about the plight of a Black working-class family as they prepare for Hurricane Katrina, a parent in Katy wrote, “I object to the explicit description of the teenage girl having sex with the boys in her social group.”
27. “Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice,” by Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood
A dad in Grapevine, a Dallas suburb, asked his child’s school district to ban this book, a collection of poems by women of color on topics relating to social justice, activism and discrimination, because, he said, it promotes “terrorism.”
28. “Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness,” by Anastasia Higginbotham
A parent asked the Eanes Independent School District in Austin to remove this picture book about racial justice, arguing that no books that promote the Black Lives Matter movement should be available to children.
29. “How to be an Antiracist,” by Ibram X. Kendi
In asking to ban this nonfiction book about resisting racism, an Eanes parent suggested replacing it with copies of the Bible.
30. “A Good Kind of Trouble,” by Lisa Moore Ramée
An Eanes parent asked administrators to get rid of this novel, about a 12-year-old girl who gets involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, because it might cause a white child to feel “confusion or distress.”
31. “We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices,” by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson
This illustrated collection of poems and essays about overcoming prejudice and racism shouldn’t be allowed in schools, an Eanes parent wrote, because it “promotes discrimination.”
32. “On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God,” by Louise Rennison
A parent in Denton, north of Dallas, wanted this teen romance removed from schools, arguing that it should be replaced with books “that have humor that do not promote sexual activity.”
33. “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini
This acclaimed novel about an unlikely friendship between a wealthy Afghan boy and the son of his father’s servant was flagged for removal by a mom in Birdville who complained that it “depicts the rape and sexual exploitation of minors.”
34. “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie H. Harris
A mom in Birdville asked school leaders to remove this book — an illustrated guide to puberty, sex and sexual health — after her child checked it out, writing that it wasn’t appropriate for middle schoolers.
35. “Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out,” by Susan Kuklin
This book, a collection of interviews with transgender or gender-neutral young adults, was flagged for removal by a parent in Birdville who claimed that the book, which includes descriptions of sexual abuse of minors, encourages sexual activity among young children.
36. “Monday’s Not Coming,” by Tiffany D. Jackson
This novel, which focuses on the unexplained disappearance of a Black teen, includes explicit language about sex, which was the basis for a Birdville parent’s request to have it removed from school libraries.
37. “More Happy Than Not,” by Adam Silvera
This novel, which includes LGBTQ storylines and explicit language, is one of dozens of library books that have been flagged for removal in the Fort Worth suburb of Keller. (Most of the formal library challenges submitted to the Keller Independent School District were filled out on behalf of parents by a school administrator and don’t specify why the parents sought to have the books removed.)
38. “George,” by Alex Gino
This book, lauded for its portrayal of a transgender child, is one of dozens of library books that have been flagged for removal in Keller.
39. “What Girls Are Made Of,” by Elana K. Arnold
This young adult novel, a National Book Award finalist, mentions abortion and includes multiple descriptions of sex. It’s one of dozens of library books that have been flagged for removal in Keller.
40. “I Am Jazz,” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
This illustrated children’s book about a transgender child — based on the real-life experiences of one of the authors — is one of dozens of library books that have been flagged for removal in Keller.
41. “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” by Jon Ronson
This book, in which the author interviews people who’ve been shamed on the internet, touches on sensitive subjects, including rape and suicide. It’s one of dozens of library books that have been flagged for removal in Keller.
42. “King and the Dragonflies,” by Kacen Callender
Winner of the 2020 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, this novel deals with themes such as grief, love, family, friendship, racism and sexuality. It is one of dozens of library books that have been flagged for removal in Keller.
43. “Go With the Flow,” by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann
This graphic novel, which the School Library Journal praised for its message “that periods need not be a dirty secret,” is one of dozens of library books that have been flagged for removal in Keller.
44. “Last Night at the Telegraph Club,” by Malinda Lo
This novel, about a lesbian romance set in 1954 between a Chinese American teen and a white classmate, is one of dozens of library books that have been flagged for removal in Keller.
45. “Weird Girl and What’s His Name,” by Meagan Brothers
Tracing the story of a 17-year-old girl who’s beginning to question her sexual orientation, this is one of dozens of library books that have been flagged for removal in Keller.
46. “Flamer,” by Mike Curato
The School Library Journal said this graphic novel, about a boy wrestling with his sexuality at summer camp, is “an essential book that shows readers that they are never alone in their struggles.” It’s one of dozens of library books that have been flagged for removal in Keller.
47. “Milk and Honey,” by Rupi Kaur
This collection of poetry and short stories about violence, abuse, love, loss and femininity is one of dozens of library books that have been flagged for removal in Keller.
48. “A Court of Mist and Fury,” by Sarah J. Maas
The second in a series of young adult fantasy novels, this is one of dozens of library books that have been flagged for removal in Keller.
49. “47,” by Walter Mosley
This novel, about a young slave boy who becomes swept up in a struggle for his own liberation, is one of dozens of library books that have been flagged for removal in Keller.
50. “Girls Like Us,” by Gail Giles
This novel, which includes descriptions of sexual abuse, is one of dozens of library books that have been flagged for removal in Keller.