‘Flamer’ is a discordant book, but pulling it out is shocking


I can’t help but think of how a Katy ISD cop temporarily removed a book from a high school library. What words or images in a book could possibly lead a school officer to this moment?

‘Flamer’, the target of a complaint filed last month by a woman who said it was ‘harmful’ to minors, has been temporarily pulled from shelves pending an investigation. Curious since a committee had already officially reviewed the book in March and deemed it suitable for secondary school students.

I read it in one go. Graphic novels aren’t my favorite, but I was captivated by the character and her story. I wanted to know how things were going to turn out or not.

I am 42 years old and I can say that I never read a book like this when I was in school. Risky was Judy Blume.

Written and illustrated by mike curatknown for his award-winning “Little Elliot” picture books, “flame” is an award-winning graphic novel that is far from a children’s book. But children are not the target audience (and neither am I). The book is recommended for ages 14 and up or under parental supervision.

This book can be shocking, even for me. And as a mom and former college teacher, I’m not shocked by much. The way the characters talk and how they act? Vulgar. The delicate situations in which they find themselves? Unavoidable. Hard. Complicated.

But this is the life of 14-year-old Aiden Navarro, a biracial Filipino American Catholic Boy Scout who is insecure about his body. He agrees to be gay. He struggles with bullying, family issues and the ideology of suicide.

A tan August 22 Katy ISD Board Meeting, several parents and students have expressed their fears or their support for the book. Katy ISD Library Coordinator Sofia Darcy explained the book selection process, saying librarians are “trained to develop library collections that meet the needs of a diverse student body served by each campus.”

Key word: miscellaneous. Some parents who struggle with the book seem to only consider their children. But not William Russey, father of two children.

“What I’ve heard at these meetings is the assumption that reading a book will make a child gay, and that’s frankly laughable. Reading ‘Jane Eyre’ didn’t turn me into a wife. Reading “The Once and Future King” didn’t turn my wife into an Arthurian knight. And just reading a book won’t make you gay, but it can help you understand your neighbor better.

It’s the goal: acceptance.

No one is forcing students to read “Flamer,but parents who attempt to censor the books are encouraged and emboldened by the culture wars waged by the Texas GOP. Last fall, State Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, targeted a list of nearly 850 books – mostly about race and LGBTQ+ characters and topics. Then Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas Education Agency “to investigate any criminal activity in public schools involving the availability of pornographic material that serves no educational purpose.”

Last week, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released its KIDS COUNT data book 2022, which describes American children in the midst of a mental health crisis; they struggle with anxiety and depression at unprecedented levels. In the United States, 23% of gay, lesbian or bisexual high school students have reported suicide attempts, compared to 6% of their heterosexual peers.

At the very top of the cover of the “Flamer” book is a quote from a reviewer: “This book will save lives.”

That’s what Curato was talking about in a Video from the Library of Congress.

“My most sincere hope is that people who need to read this book…that because they can see themselves in a book, they know they’re meant to be here,” Curato said.

I’ll tell you how the story ends for Aiden, but I don’t want to spoil it. Just know that it draws inspiration from the author’s personal story and resilience. It’s a story every teenager, boy or girl, or human, should read.



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