It’s important that school children be able to read books with diverse content so they can have a broader view of the world, according to bisexual and nonbinary author MariNaomi.
MariNomi’s Losing the Girl: Life on Earth Book 1 is one of at least nine books that have been banned by the Katy Independent School District due its frank discussion of sexuality and racism.
“They’re putting kids in a situation where they’re not going to be able to stumble on something in their libraries that are going to make them feel more accepted or less alone,” MariNaomi, who uses they/she pronouns, says. “That’s a real problem for marginalized kids.”
MariNaomi and other activists are taking action against Katy ISD’s book bans. Tonight at 7:30 p.m., they will participate in a free screening of The Never List and a virtual Q&A with MariNaomi and attorney Betsey Gomez of The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund at The Alamo Drafthouse LaCenterra.
Michelle Mower, director of The Never List, decided to organize the event after MariNaomi (who has a cameo in the film) posted a video on Facebook about her book being banned from Katy ISD.
“I knew MariNaomi’s works well, and couldn’t understand why they’d been banned. I couldn’t sit back and do nothing,” Mower says. “I reached out to MariNaomi and asked if she wanted to come to Houston for a screening of our film and a book signing. I wanted people in Katy to meet MariNaomi and realize that she’s not a threat to anyone. Her books beautifully reflect her experience as an Asian American and a member of the LGBTQ community.”
Born in Texas and raised in California, MariNaomi grew up dreaming of becoming a fiction novelist. When they discovered underground autobiographical comics in their early 20s, they began making their own comics.
“I started self-publishing my work and would trade them with my friends and family,” MariNaomi says. “I certainly never thought it would be a career.”
In 2008, MariNaomi had a book idea and realized they didn’t want to self-publish such a large project. Three years later, Harper Perennial published Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 to 22, a memoir about MariNaomi’s time as a misfit teen and young person looking for love in San Francisco, while bringing to light issues of identity and sexuality. After that first book was released, MariNaomi got an agent and decided to write comic books as a full-time job.
Losing the Girl, the first book in MariNaomi’s Life on Earth trilogy, looks at the adventures of four suburban teenagers: early romance, fraying friendships, and the traces of a mysterious—maybe otherworldly—disappearance.
MariNaomi is unsure why the book was banned by Katy ISD, because it does not feature much LGBTQ content.
“[One of the] characters realizes she is bisexual and gets together with another character who is a lesbian in books two and three,” they say, “but we don’t really know that in book one. So I’m not sure the person who banned the book actually read it.”
The other two books in the trilogy have not been banned, according to MariNaomi.
Kristian Salinas, the executive and artistic director for Houston’s international LGBTQ film festival QFest, has partnered with Mower and MariNaomi for tonight’s film screening and Q&A.
“Representation, especially for teenagers, is important,” Salinas says. “But perhaps even more impactful over the long term is education, and books provide different perspectives that can educate and ultimately develop and increase empathy toward those that are different.”
“LGBTQ people are our friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. We need to teach kids as young as possible to respect each others’ differences,” she says. “If kids are taught about LGBTQ people, they don’t generally grow up fearing them or having misconceptions about who they are. Banning LGBTQ books inherently tells kids that it’s not okay to be LGBTQ. That’s the wrong message to send—especially to some of those kids who are probably LGBTQ. We should be teaching love and mutual understanding, not hate, fear, and intolerance.”
What: Free screening of The Never List, Q&A with banned book author MariNaoimi
When: Tonight, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Alamo Drafthouse LaCenterra