Breaking News
More () »

'I was very surprised' | Author on Texas lawmaker's targeted school book list talks about growing controversy

Texas public school districts were asked to provide data on 850 different book titles by the end of this week.

HOUSTON — School books are a hot topic in Texas.

Gov. Greg Abbott recently told the Texas Education Agency to develop standards so kids aren't exposed to pornography or other inappropriate content at school.

It all began when a lawmaker demanded information on about 850 books by Nov. 12.

The books range in topics from abortion to Black Lives Matter and feminism to gender identity.

Author Robin Talley made the list four times.

"I was very surprised," Talley said.

One of her books, "As I Descended," is a modern twist on Shakespeare’s "Macbeth."

"The characters are queer,” Talley said.

It's a tale of revenge and redemption set in a southern boarding school.

"One thing that I didn’t have when I was growing up was a lot of representation of queer characters in books that I read, movies that I watched, TV shows or anything else,” Talley said.

She had no idea how she managed to make it on the list.

“I don’t know what must have been going through their minds when they were doing it," Talley said. "But it seems as though they are of the opinion that children are not able to read about people who may be different from them or people who might be going through something that these children can relate to.”

Republican Rep. Matt Krause, of Fort Worth, is chairman of the Texas House Committee on General Investigation and is also a candidate for Attorney General. He sent the list to a number of public school districts including Cy-Fair, Fort Bend, Houston and Katy ISDs.

In a letter sent with the list, Krause requests data on whether the books are in circulation and how much districts paid for them.

Here's an excerpt from the letter:

"Please identify any other books or content in your District, specifying the campus location and funds spent on acquisition, that address or contain the following topics: human sexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), sexually explicit images, graphic presentations of sexual behavior that is in violation of the law, or contain material that might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex or convey that a student, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously."

In addition to Talley’s four books, the 1967 Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Confessions of Nat Turner" is on the list as is "The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves."

"New Kid," which was recently removed and then returned to a local library, made the list as well.

RELATED: Katy ISD puts book under review back on library shelves, reschedules author's virtual visit

“Personally, think this is more about fueling his campaign for Attorney General than it is about actually doing anything constructive for public education for the state of Texas,” Texas American Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo said.

The Texas American Federation of Teachers and Texas State Teachers Association were among the first to criticize Krause and his letter.

"Our school districts have a process if a parent has a question about a particular book or assignment," TSTA president Ovidia Molina said. "So this is not even speaking up for parents.”

There was no information on who helped Krause compile the book list or what he plans to do if districts provide requested data.

Krause did not directly respond to an interview request.

"Kids are talking about all kinds of topics. They’re thinking about all kinds of topics," Talley said. "And politicians are not the ones who should be deciding what they can and can’t read.”

A number of parents with whom we spoke believe individual schools or districts should choose books based on community standards while others say access to diverse topics is important.

Check out more education stories on the KHOU 11 YouTube channel:

Before You Leave, Check This Out