The authors' letter says the authors are concerned that banned books feature authors and characters who are women, LGBTQIA+ individuals or people of color. They said the inclusion of these books in the curriculum is "both morally necessary and educationally beneficial."
The 20 authors, illustrators and contributors of the removed books include Margaret Atwood, "The Handmaid's Tale" author; Colleen AF Venable, "Kiss Number 8" author; Derf Backderf, "My Friend Dahmer" author; Amy Reed, "The Nowhere Girls" author; and Miles Hyman, "Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation" author and illustrator.
"We firmly believe that there is zero reason that any of the books that have been targeted for removal in Leander cannot be discussed in the classroom in age-appropriate ways," the letter reads. "In fact, it is the very role of teachers and librarians to make those determinations and to guide students in their learning and exploration, including through subject matter that may require thoughtful conversation and engagement."
LISD began a literature review process in November with teachers, parents and staff members to examine books allowed in high school book clubs. Superintendent Bruce Gearing previously said the curriculum process in 2020 to choose materials overlooked some explicit materials that he said should not be in the hands of students. District staff previously said the process over-relied on online reviews because the review process was mostly remote.
Books removed from the 2020-21 book clubs include “Kiss Number 8,” “Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me,” “Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation,” “The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel,” “V for Vendetta” and “Y: The Last Man Book One.” Books pending further review include “The Nowhere Girls,” “My Friend Dahmer” and “Speak: The Graphic Novel.”
The letter, published with literary nonprofit PEN America, follows several LISD board meetings with varying opinions from parents, teachers and trustees regarding the removal or inclusion of books in the language arts curriculum.
"In all, we are deeply concerned that this entire episode risks sending a dangerous message to students: that the best way to confront ideas or literature with which one disagrees is to prohibit or silence it, rather than finding other, constructive ways to engage with it," the letter said.
No items about the book review process or language arts curriculum are on the April 22 board meeting agenda. The district has not provided a statement on the authors' letter.
Authors, illustrators, editors and contributors include those of books removed, paused and under consideration in the district. They include:
- Margaret Atwood, author of "The Handmaid’s Tale"
- Derf Backderf, author of "My Friend Dahmer"
- Ellen T. Crenshaw, illustrator of "Kiss Number 8"
- Erika Sánchez, author of "I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter"
- Aaron Hartzler, author of "What We Saw"
- Laurie Halse Anderson, author of "Speak"
- Miles Hyman, author and illustrator of graphic novel adaptation of "Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery"
- Carmen Maria Machado, author of "In The Dream House"
- Ashley Hope Pérez, author of "Out of Darkness"
- Amy Reed, author of "The Nowhere Girls"
- Colleen AF Venable, author of "Kiss Number 8"
- Jacqueline Woodson, author of "Red at the Bone" and "Beneath a Meth Moon: An Elegy"
- Maureen Johnson, editor, "How I Resist"
- Libba Bray, contributor, "How I Resist"
- Carolyn DeWitt, contributor, "How I Resist"
- Alex Gino, contributor, "How I Resist"
- KC Green, contributor, "How I Resist"
- Hebh Jamal, contributor, "How I Resist"
- Malinda Lo, contributor, "How I Resist"
- Jodi Picoult, contributor, "How I Resist"