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Teachers' union recommends sexually explicit graphic novel, other controversial books on its summer reading list
Chris Sweda/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Teachers' union recommends sexually explicit graphic novel, other controversial books on its summer reading list

The country's largest teachers' union recently released its latest summer reading list, which recommended a sexually explicit graphic novel and several other controversial books to educators.

The National Education Association published a list of 11 suggested reads divided into several sections, including "books that make you forget work," "books to celebrate or understand Juneteenth," and "books that will make you a better educator."

The summer list also included a "banned books" section encouraging bookworms to "celebrate the freedom to read!"

Most notably, the NEA's recommendations included the controversial graphic comic book, "Gender Queer: A Memoir" by Maira Kobabe.

The NEA's website stated, "Twilight used to be at the top of banned-book lists for its racy content. Today, those lists are much more likely to feature LGBTQ+ people or People of Color."

The novel has topped the American Library Association's most challenged book list for the past two years after concerned parents nationwide have urged schools to remove it from classrooms and libraries because it contains sexually explicit images. According to the organization, the book has been "challenged" at least 151 times.

The autobiographical comic follows the story of the book's author, Kobabe, who identifies as "nonbinary" and prefers "e/em/eir" pronouns. Critics of the novel argue that it is inappropriate for school-aged children because it features graphic images and descriptions of oral sex and masturbation.

In an interview with NPR, Kobabe stood by the comic's sexual content, stating, "I honestly think the book is a lot less explicit than it could be."

"The topic of gender touches on identity… and it touches on sexuality," Kobabe added. "And it's hard to fully explain I think what like how a gender identity can impact every facet of life as an adult without touching at least a little bit on sexuality. And I wanted to at least not to like shy away from that."

The NEA's summer reading list also included "White Fragility" by Robin DiAngelo, which it states "explores why White people are so bad at talking about racism."

At the top of the recommended reads, the NEA added an editor's note explaining that the listed titles are "diverse" and meant to help educators "better understand their colleagues, students, and families."

"The books here are not recommended for students," the NEA added.

On Wednesday, Republican Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin slammed the teachers' union for its "unprecedented" recommendations.

"This is the same NEA that counseled Biden to keep schools shut for an extended period of time. And it's the same NEA that said that parents, in fact, were on the verge of being terrorists, showing up at school board meetings," Youngkin told "Fox and Friends."

"This is who is recommending what books to read for our kids. It's unprecedented. That [educators] should read as well. The challenge we've got today is that there have been politicians and bureaucrats and the teachers' associations and unions who believe that they are more important in kids' lives than parents," he added.

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