- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Scrutiny of books in schools intensified in Texas last year, as state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, chairman of the House Committee on General Investigating, requested that superintendents catalog nearly 850 titles related to race and sex or that could produce "discomfort" among students.
Separately, some school boards in Texas have moved to remove books from libraries, as books have been challenged and banned in other states as well.
A viral Feb. 1 tweet that garnered at least 16,100 retweets and 65,800 likes by Australian user @AnthCondon said, "Books banned in Texas include 1984, Maus, and The Handmaid's Tale, but not Mein Kampf. I'm done arguing with people over whether this is fascism."
Books banned in Texas include 1984, Maus, and The Handmaid's Tale, but not Mein Kampf.
I'm done arguing with people over whether this is fascism.
— Anthony Condon (@AnthCondon) February 1, 2022
PolitiFact Texas reached out to the user for his source but did not hear back. The books the user refers to are:
"1984" by George Orwell, about a dystopian totalitarian government that censors information, brainwashes citizens, and persecutes them for individualist, critical thinking.
"Maus" by Art Spiegelman depicts the author asking his father, a Holocaust survivor, about his experiences.
"The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood, set in a totalitarian theocratic society where women cannot hold property or jobs. A group of women, called "handmaids," are forced to produce children for the ruling class of men.
"Mein Kampf," Adolf Hitler's antisemitic political manifesto.
Is this post right about these books being banned in Texas and "Mein Kampf" not banned? Let's take a look.
Process to challenge a book to be banned
A ban is the removal of a book from a collective space, whereas a challenge brings the book into question based on the objections of a person or group, according to the American Library Association.
The American Library Association noted online, "Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection."
Rob Weiner, a popular culture librarian at Texas Tech University, said there is a long history in the U.S. of challenging and banning books.
"Certainly, there is a political impetus behind it. But it's nothing new. That's why there's Banned Books Week," Weiner said.
The tweet does not specify whether it is referring to Krause's letter to superintendents but the books named in the letter have not been removed from libraries statewide. The letter also doesn't include the titles mentioned in the tweet, though it does include 'The Handmaid's Tale: The Graphic Novel' by Margaret Atwood and Renee Nault.
Because of heightened scrutiny around what is being taught in schools and Krause's list, there is a wave of local attempts to remove specific books from school and public libraries.
"Many of these challenges began with the titles on Rep. Krause’s list, including 'The Handmaid's Tale: The Graphic Novel' by Margaret Atwood and Renee Nault," said Shirley Robinson, executive director of the Texas Library Association, in a Feb. 8 email to PolitiFact Texas. "However, from there, the issue has continued to snowball on a case-by-case basis with individuals taking it upon themselves to carefully and subjectively curate a selection of books to challenge based on specific themes and genres."
She noted Texas public schools have clear, transparent processes approved by school boards for addressing book challenges. Usually that means a committee of educators and parents is appointed to read the book and evaluate its educational value. The process is similar in public libraries with selections made based on guidelines approved by the library's governing authority.
Proponents for book banning are painting this issue "with a broad brush" for political support while taking the decision-making process away from children and parents, Robinson said.
What books are being challenged?
When Gov. Greg Abbott showed support for Krause's scrutiny of school books, he said parents "are rightfully outraged about highly inappropriate books and other content in public school libraries."
A vast majority of the books named in the state letter are about or reference sexuality, LGBTQ+ identity, and race. An October analysis by The Dallas Morning News found that 97 of the first 100 titles listed were written by women, people of color, or LGBTQ+ authors.
Records requested by NBC News of nearly 100 Texas school districts found 86 formal requests to remove books from libraries in 2021, with the majority of requests coming at the end of the year after Krause sent his letter.
A librarian who is a member of #FReadom, a collective of librarians who highlight the work of libraries and books in reaction to Krause's letter, said they weren't aware of any of the books mentioned in the tweet being recently challenged in Texas, other than "The Handmaid's Tale: The Graphic Novel." The librarian also noted a district in another state removed the title "Maus" from its curriculum, not library.
That state was Tennessee, where a school board banned "Maus" in January, as reported by the (Nashville) Tennessean.
"Some high school libraries own Mein Kampf in Texas," the #FReadom librarian wrote. "We checked four — two owned it, one did not, and one did not, but had a video about it. So we would say it's true that high school libraries 'sometimes' have Mein Kampf."
Robinson wrote that it is possible titles mentioned in the tweet may have been discussed on the local level.
"Each school district has its own process for challenges to books because each school district is different, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy that would work across a state the size of Texas," Robinson said. "As there is no central organization in Texas tracking every book that is challenged, it is almost impossible to say whether one particular title has been banned in Texas public schools or libraries in the past."
"The Handmaid's Tale" and "1984" are both on the American Library Association's Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books: 2010-2019 online list. "The Handmaid's Tale" was the seventh most challenged and banned book in 2019 nationally for "vulgarity and sexual overtones."
A viral Feb. 1 tweet said, "Books banned in Texas include 1984, Maus, and The Handmaid's Tale, but not Mein Kampf. I'm done arguing with the people over whether this is fascism."
While Texas is seeing an influx in local requests to remove books, there is no statewide ban in place. Additionally, "1984," "Maus" and "The Handmaid's Tale" are not named in a state effort to scrutinize certain books, though "The Handmaid's Tale: The Graphic Novel" by Margaret Atwood and Renee Nault is included on the list.
We rate this claim as False.
Tweet by Twitter user @anthcondon, Feb. 1, 2022
Phone interview with Robert G. "Rob" Weiner, popular culture librarian at Texas Tech University, Feb. 10, 2022
Email from #FReadom, Feb. 10, 2022
María Méndez, Austin American-Statesman, "A state lawmaker asked schools to catalog books on race and sex. Do they have to comply?" Oct. 28, 2021
María Méndez, Austin American-Statesman, "Texas officials to target obscene content in school libraries at governor's request," Nov. 9, 2021
Email from Shirley Robinson, executive director of the Texas Library Association in an email via Elizabeth Christian Public Relations, Feb. 8, 2022
American Library Association, "About Banned & Challenged Books"
Sarah Asch, Austin American-Statesman, "Leander removes 13 books from high school book club lists amid parent concerns," Sept. 14, 2021
American Library Association, "Banned & Challenged Classics"
American Library Association, "Top 10 Most Challenged Books Lists"
American Library Association, "Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged Books: 2010-2019."
Maria Méndez, Austin American-Statesman, "Abbott push to probe pornography in schools prompts question: When is a book pornographic?", Nov. 29, 2021
Rachel Wegner, Nashville Tennessean, "'Absurd': Author of 'Maus' condemns Tennessee school's decision to pull book on Holocaust," Jan. 27, 2022
Patricia Bauer, Britannica, "The Handmaid's Tale: novel by Atwood," updated in 2019
Mike Hixenbaugh, NBC News, "Here are 50 books Texas parents want banned from school libraries," Feb. 1, 2022
Talia Richman and Corbett Smith, The Dallas Morning News, "Books probed by a Texas lawmaker by women, people of color, LGBTQ writers. They're asking: 'Really?'" Oct. 28, 2021
"1984: Full Book Summary," SparkNotes
"The Handmaid's Tale: Full Book Summary," SparkNotes
Contact Nusaiba Mizan at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @nusaiblah.
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Fact-check: Which books are being challenged in Texas schools?