Arizona Book Ban
This story was originally published in January 2012
As I was on Facebook, I noticed a friend of mine had posted a link to a site called Censored News talking about Tucson, AZ and book banning. I figured it was still over the Mexican American cultural studies debacle since the state found that the schools Cultural Studies programs taught how to overthrow a government. I can barely get teenagers to read, let alone mold them into some sort of indoctrination super revolutionary in 12 months in one hour increments, which would be astounding. I’d have a job brainwashing with the military if this was even remotely possible.
If you are a Chicano activist, stop tweeting. Seriously, stop. Pay attention to the overthrowing possibilities in this book. Get off facebook.
This article shook me. Of all the idiocacy that has come out in the news, this is by far the most repulsive.
Brenda Norrell wrote an article informing us of the 4-1 vote on Tuesday by the Tucson Unified School District to BAN books and forbid Mexican American Studies. Forbidden and banned should really not be part of the vocabulary when discussing learning, should it? This only leads to less critical thinking, less focus and ultimately, less learning.
The list of books attacks all genres and themes and seems to have no direct reason for some of them being pulled.
Drink Cultura, really? The book is a series of funny, serious, and short personal essays written by Jose Burciaga.
Some of the books on that list where written by very prominent authors in time periods that were not welcoming to Mexican Americans nor Native Americans.
Empowerment through Literature
Tomas Rivera was the author who changed my life when I read his book And the Earth Did Not Devour Him, the pride I felt in reading a Mexican American author was inexplicable. Tomas Rivera was self-taught and read in the library even when it was still not “appropriate” for a Mexican American to have a library card. This man eventually became a University President. His book? Banned.
Gloria Anzaldúa who wrote about the oppression and submission of women and about the duality of living in between two cultures, banned.
Matthew De La Pena’s book Mexican White Boy, a coming of age story about a bicultural young man who plays sports, banned.
Sandara Cisneros, House on Mango Street, banned.
Basically the requirements for book banning have changed. Administrators told Mexican-American studies teachers to stay away from any class units where “race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes.” Read more on Salon.
Gee, that surely does narrow the literature down considerably.
To kill a Mockingbird
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Most Dangerous Game
Anything by Women, especially Jane and her fighting against the system.
Oppression? Possibly everything written by Holocaust Survivers, but they were excluded from this banning.
You know, because Mexican American studies teaches people to overthrow the government. It is this ideal that infuriates me. Knowledge and empathy come from education. Education comes from learning. Learning comes from books. Books come from people who are not afraid to write about what is the reality…even if you try close your eyes and pretend the 1950’s, segregation and racism never happened.
The Power of Books
Books educate and give you an opportunity to accurately look at different viewpoints. We may as well ban the Autobiography of Fredick Douglas while we’re at it.
We should also ban anything by Malcolm X, right? I do not believe any book should be banned, even ones I despise. I read them and do not agree with them, but who am I to tell a student they cannot read it?
The danger lies in reading only one viewpoint and one idealogy on that particular topic and believing it to be fact. An ability to think things through and look at every angle of an argument is a skill set needed to compete in the real world. I feel as though this is literary genocide is a way to devalue dozens of award winning authors who have paved the way for the rest of us.
I do not want to see my soon to be submitted book not picked up because it is a risk because it contains Mexican American characters. I am Latina, this is my life, those are my stories. How dare you decide I am not important enough to be heard. How dare you belittle and begrudge Latinos who toiled and worked in the fields, and went to school, self-educated and became writers. They pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and worked to get the grades.
How dare you hide the fact that in the 1960’s many Latinos were forced to choose industrial careers because a counselor thought that was the best fit for “those” people.
How dare you hide the 1930 deportation of thousands of AMERICAN Citizens with MEXICAN Surnames? How dare you smother our culture?
How dare you hide the injustices of the Native American people? How dare you force their stories of the poverty of the reservations away?
May as well pull out the gasoline, start with the Bible. The most politically, emotionally charge book in history with thematic nuances of race, and ethnicity and oppression as central themes.
I need to get my rosary, hop into my low rider, find my brown beret, and begin to brainwash kids in 20 minute increments after roll call. Settle them down, fight with them over cell phones and Facebook.
But as soon as that is done. Game on, mi raza.
Jessica Olivarez-Mazone is a mother of two biracial children and lives along the South Texas Coast. She enjoy exploring her Tex-Mex culture while creating a new one with her own mixed race family. She blogs about beading, Estorias, and life at Tejana Made.