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More Republican leaders try to ban books on race, LGBTQ issues

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster sent a letter to the state's department of education this week about <em>Gender Queer: A Memoir,</em> a book he wants investigated.
Jeffrey Collins
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster sent a letter to the state's department of education this week about Gender Queer: A Memoir, a book he wants investigated.

In the latest call from Republican leaders to ban certain books in schools, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is telling his state's department of education to investigate a graphic novel on queer identity being available at a school's library. He says the content in the book is "sexually explicit" and "pornographic."

The book, Gender Queer: A Memoir, by Maia Kobabe, is recommended for grades 10 and up by its publisher and tells an autobiographical story of a person who is grappling with their gender and sexual identity.

"I call on the Department of Education or the State Board of Education, as appropriate, to promulgate statewide standards and directives to prevent pornography and other obscene content from entering our State's public schools and libraries," the governor said in a letter sent Wednesday to the superintendent of education.

McMaster's call is the latest instance of Republican elected leaders and local school board members lashing out at books in school libraries that address topics such as queer identity, racism and sex education.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to the state's school board association saying public schools shouldn't have "pornographic or obscene material." He did not provide any specific examples of content.

But Texas state Rep. Jeff Cason called on the state's attorney general to investigate "sexually explicit material in public schools," including Gender Queer.

Another Texas lawmaker running for attorney general identified a list of 850 books that he says should be questioned; many of those books are written by women, people of color and LGBTQ authors.

Severalother states, including Virginia, North Carolina, Maine and Missouri have also targeted certain books available in schools, often telling stories of young people of color and narratives that include U.S. history of segregation and racism.

The topic led the Virginia gubernatorial race

The topic of investigating and banning certain books came further into the national spotlight during the recent Virginia gubernatorial race.

Republican winner Glenn Youngkin campaigned off the idea that his opponent, Democrat Terry McAuliffe, didn't want parents to have a say in what their children are being taught in school.

One of the books in question was Toni Morrison's Beloved, a book that tells the story of formerly enslaved people in the aftermath of the Civil War. The book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988.

In a Virginia county, two school board members want to burn the books

In Virginia's Spotsylvania County, the school board recently voted to remove books in school libraries that had any "sexually explicit" material.

One book in particular that caused outrage is Adam Rapp's 33 Snowfish, with a storyline that includes drug addiction, prostitution and violence.

Two school board members, Rabih Abuismail and Kirk Twigg, went on to say they would like to see the banned books burned.

"I think we should throw those books in a fire," Abuismail said, according to NBC Washington. "I guess we live in a world now that our public schools would rather have kids read about gay pornography than Christ."

Twigg said he wants to "see the books before we burn them so we can identify within our community that we are eradicating this bad stuff."

Book burning was a practice perpetuated in Nazi Germany in order to oppress authors and ideas that were in opposition to Nazi ideology.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.
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