Rainbow Book Bus stops in San Antonio to give away banned LGBTQ+ books

A bus touring the South to give away LGBTQ+ books in response to the rise in efforts to ban books made a stop in San Antonio Wednesday.

By Camille Phillips, Texas Public RadioMarch 18, 2024 11:09 am, ,

From Texas Public Radio:

A bus touring the South to give away LGBTQ+ books in response to the rise in efforts to ban books made a stop in San Antonio Wednesday.

The outdoor space behind The Good Kind in Southtown was crowded with families and teens lined up to get books with LGBTQ+ characters set up on folding tables and displayed inside a rainbow-colored school bus.

We really believe that it’s so important to see yourself in these stories,” said Adam Powell, the executive director of the Rainbow Book Bus. “As we all know, there’s a lot of book bans going on right now. And I think especially for queer and LGBTQ+ youth, being told that these books are taken out of their libraries, taken out of their schools, we’re here to say, ‘If they’re going to take them out, we’re going to give them to you for free.’”

The Rainbow Book Bus, which has the backing of RuPaul, started its inaugural journey in Los Angeles on March 4, making stops in Arizona, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana. Powell said San Antonio was their last stop on the tour, and the only stop in Texas.

Camille Phillips / Texas Public Radio

A teenager and an older woman walk through the Rainbow Book Bus in San Antonio.

“We have over 100 different book titles and all these books are either banned or challenged somewhere in the USA,” Powell said, adding that most of the books they chose are for children and young adults, since those are the books that are most often the target for bans.

Rainbow Book Bus partnered with Thrive Youth Center to organize San Antonio’s book giveaway. Thrive is a shelter for LGBTQ+ young adults experiencing homelessness.

LGBTQ+ books on a shelf inside the Rainbow Book Bus. Camille Phillips / Texas Public Radio

“We know that part of the reason why our youth are homeless is oftentimes because they don’t have supportive family,” said Jenny Hixon, executive director of Thrive. “And so, the more we can do to increase community awareness, community support, to make sure that our youth know there are lots of people out there who love them and want them here; We’re happy to do that.”

Hixon said a lot of the youth at Thrive came to the book giveaway.

One of our youth I know has gotten a huge stack of books, so she’s going to be busy for the next few months working her way through those,” she said.

Powell said the Rainbow Books Bus brings 900 to 1,000 books to giveaway at each stop. The organization had a goal of giving away 10,000 books on its inaugural tour.

Local San Antonio authors also attended the fair to promote and sell their books. San Antonio illustrator Shelby Criswell was there to sell two graphic novels, Queer as All Get Out, and a horror novella they illustrated called Leaf Peepers.

“It’s cool to see other queer people who have written books,” Criswell said. “I had no idea there were so many in San Antonio.”

“Some people have even brought other copies that they bought of my book elsewhere and was like, ‘Hey, can you sign this?’ I had no idea people knew my name,” Criswell added.

Camille Phillips / Texas Public Radio

Former state poet laureate Carmen Tafolla said she underestimated how many books to bring and ran out. Although her books highlight the Mexican American experience rather than LGBTQ+ characters, Tafolla said it’s important to stand against all book bans.

“Reading a huge diversity of books has tremendous benefits to young children and increases their empathy,” she added. “Some of the books that are being challenged are being challenged for the most ridiculous reasons. And most of the people making the loudest noise about wanting a book banned have never read the book that they’re asking to be banned.”

Tafolla said her first book of poems, Curandera, was banned in Arizona in 2012.

They simply took it down because it was part of a Mexican American Studies curriculum. And the schools fought hard enough and the population fought hard enough that that ban has been lifted, it is now being used in Arizona schools again,” she said. “So, I’m an advocate for books that include what has been excluded.”

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