When El Paso teen Alex Reyes read “Magnus Chase” while in the seventh grade, they immediately identified with one of the main characters: Alex Fierro. It wasn’t just because of their shared first name, but because of their shared experience as gender fluid teenagers.
“It was the first time I had read a book where I saw something that I kind of felt similar to, related to,” Reyes said. “It’s stuck with me for so long. They have so much more going on, and the sexuality is just a part of it. … It’s not all that I am, but it’s a part of me.”
Rick Riordan’s “Magnus Chase” series, like many of the books Reyes reads, is being targeted by Texas legislators and school boards nationwide. A PEN America report from 2022 found that book bans affected 86 school districts across 26 states, with a combined 2 million students. More than 1,500 books have been banned already; Texas tops the list, with 16 districts having banned more than 700 books.
The number may soon rise further. The Texas Legislature is currently considering several bills that may ban books in schools that include content on sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual activity. Among the bills being considered are Senate Bill 13, House Bill 900 and House Bill 1804.
In El Paso, youth, authors, librarians and other community members are pushing back.
Last year, the city, in collaboration with the YWCA Paso del Norte Region, installed a banned books section at city library branches. “Books have been challenged and banned throughout history, and we are seeing a reemergence today,” the YWCA announced then. “Silencing and limiting of stories, histories, and points of view of anyone are direct attacks on the people who write and are represented in those books.”
The effort by El Paso Public Library sought to spotlight the stories of historically marginalized people and communities of Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, Asian and LGBTQ+ that are often left out of history books and school curriculums.
El Paso city Rep. Alexsandra Annello was elemental in championing the effort to bring access to banned books to area residents.