Texas authors decline invitation to legislature event, citing opposition to controversial bills

A number of Texas authors have declined, or are thinking about declining, an invitation from the Texas Legislature, citing opposition to controversial bills such as Senate Bill 6, a.k.a Texas’ “bathroom bill,” which would prevent the majority of transgender Texans from using public bathrooms that comport with their gender identity.

One author may have been uninvited entirely.

RELATED: Dan Patrick unveils Texas transgender bathroom bill

Ricardo B. Brazziell AMERICAN-STATESMAN 10/12/10 Rick Riordan greets and shakes hands with his fans as he makes his way through the crowd to speak about his new book " The Lost Hero" on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at Book People book store.

Author Rick Riordan greets fans at a BookPeople event in 2010. Ricardo B. Brazziell AMERICAN-STATESMAN

On Jan. 6, Rick Riordan, author of the YA smash hit “Percy Jackson” series and a University of Texas graduate, tweeted the following:

“Just turned down an invite to be honored by TX state legislature as a Texas author. If they want to honor me, they could stop this nonsense.” He included a link to a tweet from the ACLU linking to a Vox.com article on SB6.  (While Texas claims Riordan as a Texas author and he lived in San Antonio for many years, Riordan now lives in Boston.)

The event in question is slated for March 8 and is being organized by Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas).

Austin’s Natalia Sylvester, author of the 2014 novel “Chasing the Sun,” is also declining the invite.

Austin writer Sarah Bird, who has written nine novels and the novella-length essay “A Love Letter to Texas Women,” seems to have been uninvited. Or declined via accepting. Or something.

Perhaps referring to the fact that bills restricting access to abortion have already been filed, Bird posted the following on her Facebook page

“Stop Using the Bodies of Texas Women as a Political Battlefield: What I would have said to the Texas State Legislature.

I was told last Friday that the Legislature would like to me honor me as an ‘esteemed Austin author’ and ‘an ideal role model for girls.’

I answered that I looked forward to the opportunity to address the Legislature when I accepted this honor.

I went on to say that since they had mentioned my small book, ‘Love Letter to Texas Women,’ I would especially like to ‘plead with this august group to stop using the bodies of Texas women as a political battlefield. I would also like to bear witness to the fact that I, absolutely, would never have become an author, a role model, or even the person I was meant to be without access to safe, affordable, women’s health care.’

I received a genuinely courteous response saying that they regretted I wouldn’t be attending.”

Bird and several other writers will be reading at the”Austin Writers Resist” event at BookPeople Jan. 15.

Novelist Amanda Eyre Ward, who lives in Austin, posted the following on her author page:

“I’ve thought a lot about how to respond to my invitation to the #txledge Celebration of Authors. How can we as artists be a part of changing minds (and policy)? Sent these tweets…any other ideas very welcome.

@JasonVillalba I’m sorry to decline your invitation to the #txlege celebration of authors. Sending a copy of my novel, The Same Sky, to you.

@JasonVillalba I’d love to be a part of a discussion about literature and social issues (like sanctuary cities and unaccompanied minors).

@JasonVillalba Could we organize an event like this in the future? I’d love to talk about art and its power to influence both policy and minds.”

I understand that authors are saying no to the event and with good reasons,” Ward said in an email.”But a “no” ends the conversation. I want to engage and am hopeful that Villalba can organize some kind of event where authors can speak and listen. We write about political issues because we’re passionate about them.”

Ward’s 2015 novel, “The Same Sky,” engages immigration issues. and notes that she witnesses readers get into passionate debates at various events.

“I saw people crying, saying they had never really thought about immigrant children, about their situations and about how many were alone and terrified and hopeful,” Ward said. “The power of novels is the ability to make a dry, complex subject visceral. So I don’t just want to say, ‘no.’ I want to say, ‘Will you read my book and can we talk?’ So I’m hoping he’ll say yes.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated the authors both cited opposition to Senate Bill 6. This has since been corrected.

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