Keep Your Hands
Off My Books
Matt Krause wasn’t exactly a household word before he began his crusade to eliminate from Texas schools all books that have anything to do with such anti-Texan subjects like racism and sexuality. It’s déjà vu all over again but I find myself saying that just about every day when I read any news about Texas. Krause is a Republican state legislator who also is running for attorney general of Texas and touched the motherlode with his book banning plan, with dozens of stories popping up in a Google searches for Krause since his latest blasphemy began.
The latest spurt of reactionary, far right pandering comes from Krause, the son of a preacher and graduate of two Christian universities who has not a hair out of place on his close cropped head and has a family that has cemented-on smiles that look like they were manufactured at a Hallmark Cards factory. Krause has written the Texas Education Agency and some school superintendents demanding the names of books that they carry that are named in a list of 850 suspect titles that deal with such emerging and supercharged issues like racism and sexuality.
Attached to the letter is a 16-page long list of books and I propose that before the progressive Texas legislature takes action, that Krause should read every book and submit a detailed report no later than next Friday or face getting a possible “F” as a legislator and get booted out of Austin. I know, that won’t happen, because I will bet that Krause has not read the books he seems to so dread while I expect his Texan colleagues, equally ignorant, will cheer on their colleague.
The list is dominated by books that discuss race and racism in the U.S. including “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi, a best-seller that explores the overt and covert racism endemic in American society and how anyone can learn to be anti-racist. It’s a book that everyone needs to read, especially the good people of Texas, where racism takes many forms, from claiming that trump really won the November election and denying that Joe Biden is president to redistricting to minimize the power of African American voters.
Another marked book is “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo, a New York Times bestseller that offers a “revelatory examination of race in America.” The Times review writes that “Protests against racial injustice and white supremacy have galvanized millions around the world. The stakes for transformative conversations about race could not be higher. Still, the task ahead seems daunting, and it’s hard to know where to start. How do you tell your boss her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law hang up on you when you had questions about police reform? How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend? Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from police brutality and cultural appropriation to the model minority myth in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race, and about how racism infects every aspect of American life.”
Pretty threatening words to anyone whose goal is to keep anyone with dark skin down on the farm, metaphorically.
Other books on the good Christian lawmaker’s naughty list discuss matters of sex, gender and identity like “The Birds, the Bees, and You and Me,” by Olivia Hinebaugh, which takes on the subject of the damage that the abstinence-only sex-ed curriculum of her school can do, a subject that makes every Texas Republican’s skin crawl while he and she literally jumps up and down and screams and works ever harder to make abortion illegal for anyone at any time.
Goodreads.com reviewed the book, and noted how, “Seventeen-year-old Lacey Burke is the last person on the planet who should be doling out sex advice. For starters, she’s never even kissed anyone, and she hates breaking the rules. Up until now, she’s been a straight-A music geek that no one even notices. All she cares about is jamming out with her best friends, Theo and Evita.
But then everything changes.
When Lacey sees first-hand how much damage the abstinence-only sex-ed curriculum of her school can do, she decides to take a stand and starts doling out wisdom and contraception to anyone who seeks her out in the girls’ restroom. But things with Theo become complicated quickly, and Lacey is soon not just keeping everyone else’s secrets, but hers as well.”
And yet another sex-related book on Krause’s nasty list is “Identity: A Story of Transitioning,” by Corey Maison, and you know what this is about, the unforgiveable sin of a person following his or her own sexual gender.
“What do you do when you are born as one gender, but feel yourself to be another? Gender dysphoria affects thousands of people worldwide, but has been ignored or ridiculed in our culture. With this graphic novel, Corey Maison boldly shares her story of transitioning, so that other kids with gender dysphoria and related conditions will no longer feel so isolated, hopeless, or lost,” says the Amazon review.
Another God-less, blasphemous book noted by Krause touches on the gay rights movement, “Pride: The story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag,” by Rob Sanders, an illustrated book on the story of Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, where he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, before he was assassinated on Nov. 27, 1978, at the age of just 48.
And yet another is “When Aidan Became a Brother,” by Kyle Lukoff, described as a “sweet and groundbreaking picture book” that won the 2020 Stonewall Book Award as it “celebrates the changes in a transgender boy’s life, from his initial coming-out to becoming a big brother.”
Books that deal with these controversial subjects violate the state’s House Bill 3979, a reactionary law that went into effect last month that limits how race-related subjects are taught in the state’s schools. Krause wants to expand the prohibition to sex-related subjects and apparently any other subject that will win him support of the right wing GOP, trumpers all.
The good lawmaker evidently views these subjects as terribly threatening to the impressionable, young, white minds of the Lone Star State. The only good thing about the whole stinking mess is that it’s happening in Texas, for now, where bad things happen more and more often but I do fear the cancer is spreading and germinating in our back yards.
In the great state of Virginia, GOP reactionary gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin is campaigning on the rights of parents to decide what their children are taught. He ran an ad about a woman named Laura Murphy who complained about not being able to dictate what was taught at her local high school. Murphy has claimed that her son, Blake, now an associate general counsel for the National Republican Congressional Committee, had night terrors after being required to read Toni Morrison’s book Pulitzer Prize-winning classic “Beloved.” I think the young man’s night terrors were triggered by something much more primal than a book.
There’s nothing new about narrow-minded, bigoted, intellectual snails like Krause or his jihad to keep certain books out of schools. Book banning is as American as the proverbial apple pie and historically has involved books that supposedly contain graphic violence, expresses disrespect for parents and family, is sexually explicit, exalts evil, lacks literary merit, is unsuitable for a particular age group, or includes offensive language.
Most challenges and bans prior to the 1970s focused on obscenity and explicit sexuality with common targets including D. H. Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterly’s Lover” and James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” considered by many to be the most important novel of the 20th century.
In the late 1970s, attacks began based on ideologies, with bans on literary classics like Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Other books that have attracted ire of the right wing include “Catcher in the Rye,” by J.D. Salinger, “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck and “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut, a book which was described by a Michigan judge as “depraved, immoral, psychotic, vulgar, and anti-Christian.”
The American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom has noted the Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020 and they include:
“George” by Alex Gino.
“Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds.
“All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.
“Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson.
“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie.
“Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice” by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee.
“Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck.
“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison.
“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas.
The books listed as most commonly banned is the best reason to read them and make your own judgments. I do believe that parents can monitor the books their children read and the subjects they follow on social networks. But having sanctimonious politicians deciding on whether or not the schools can offer the works of the nation’s finest writers is about as distasteful as anything I can imagine. These books are not threatening, subversive or un-American, in fact, books are about the most American thing I can think of because they promote thinking, communication, understanding diversity and creativity. The real threatening, subversive and un-American are rubes like Krause who think they are the morality and thought police. Yechhh.
For a little more about Krause, he has been a member of the Texas House of Representatives since 2013 and has written a few books, including “Heathen Pilgrim: Walk Across Turkey” and “Mistakes Fund Marketing Managers Make, Presentation Tips, Part II.” He graduated in 2003 from San Diego Christian College, where “all major classes are supplemented by general education while integrating a biblical worldview.” He also has a degree from Liberty University, a private Evangelical university in Lynchburg, Va., that was founded by Jerry Falwell Sr. and Elmer L. Towns in 1971.
Krause is a founding member of the Texas House Freedom Caucus and said that his campaign “is going to be focused on being that faithful conservative fighter that Texans can be proud of.” The mission of the House Freedom Caucus is to “amplify the voice of liberty-minded, grassroots Texans who want bold action to protect life, strengthen families, defend the U.S. and Texas Bills of Rights, restrain government, and revitalize personal and economic freedoms in the State of Texas.”
An emeritus member of the caucus is former Rep. Bill Zedler, who came out in 2019 supporting the anti-vax movement by introducing a Texas bill that would allow parents to opt out of school vaccination requirements. He was quoted as saying “They want to say people are dying of measles. Yeah, in third-world countries they’re dying of measles. Today, with antibiotics and that kind of stuff, they’re not dying in America.”
Measles, however, is caused by a virus, and cannot be treated with antibiotics. In the U.S. one to two people die for every 1,000 people infected with measles; the last fatality in the U.S. was in 2015.
There you go.