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Lawmakers want Texas schools to review books for vulgarity; Authors explain what's actually in them

"Putting your toddler in a 'ladykiller' onesie... that's probably a bit raunchier than most things in my books," author Ryan La Sala said.

SAN ANTONIO — San Antonio's North East ISD is among Texas's largest school districts complying with Fort Worth Republican Rep. Matt Krause's request for information about certain books in school libraries.

In an October letter, Krause asked school districts to comb their shelves for 850 different titles. Most of those books are about LGBTQ experiences, though racial injustices and abortion are also common topics. 

"V for Vendetta," "We the Students: Supreme Court Cases for and about Students," "Drugs and Sex" and Pulitzer-prize winner "The Confessions of Nat Turner" are among the books identified.

Krause asked districts to report how many copies of each book districts have, which campuses the works are located on, and how much money the district spent to acquire the titles. 

NEISD says it had 414 of the listed titles available for students to check out.

"Most of those are appropriate and will stay on our library shelves as is," district spokesperson Aubrey Chancellor said in a statement. "Some may contain content that needs further review to ensure the books are accessible based on age appropriateness." 

The district removed books still under review from an online database and instructed librarians to remove copies from library shelves until a committee cleared the titles. 

More than 100 books have already been deemed age-appropriate, Chancellor said. 

She says the district was already assessing its library collection before the lawmaker's letter. 

Krause has not said what he intends to do with the information he collects. His letter does not ask schools to take any action beyond reporting back data. 

Gov. Greg Abbott has similarly called for a criminal investigation into the availability of pornographic content in schools. He did not define pornography or name specific titles. 

"The people who put (these books) on the list probably haven't even read them," said Greg Howard, an author with two books on Krause's list. 

His "The Whispers" and "Middle school's a drag, you better werk!" follow gay and queer characters as they navigate adolescence and grief. 

"If kids are living it, I will write about it," he said. "Sometimes it's the adults that have the problem with things that kids are already living."

Howard points to dreadful statistics indicating children who identify as LGBTQ are far more likely to commit suicide. 

"It's heartbreaking because I was that kid. I was 12-years-old and gay, living in the south. I didn't see myself in books. I didn't see myself on TV or in movies," he said. "It made me feel very lonely." 

He contends children crave representation. Stripping a child of the opportunity to feel understood could bear deadly consequences, he says. 

"Please keep the children's best interest in mind and think about what they're going through every single day," Howard added. "Instead of trying to protect them from the world, know that they're already living it."

Ryan La Sala's "Be Dazzled" and "Reverie" also fall on Krause's list. He speculates some people are threatened by novels that impart life lessons using queer protagonists. 

"If we're not inhibited by our sexual identities - If we are, in fact, finding power in those identities, then it automatically disrupts the status quo," La Sala said. 

La Sala says he wants to challenge that status quo, but says there's nothing inappropriate for children in either novel on Krause's list. His characters don't go beyond a kiss on the cheek. 

"If you're having a gender-reveal party and you're putting your toddler in a 'ladykiller' onesie, that's actually probably a little bit raunchier than most of the things in my books," he said.

"Teens have access to all of this stuff already," he continued. "I'd hope that they learned these things from me, someone who is thinking about their well-being... rather than from just ambient culture off the internet."

Howard says he wants parents to be a part of a conversation about identity or loneliness. 

"You can't just put these kids in a box or put them away in a closet and expect them to go away," Howard said. "They're still there. They just need to feel valued and validated."