Melinda Palacio and Banned Book Author Elena Díaz Bjorkquist
Last week, I spoke on immigration and Ocotillo Dreams at CSU Fresno. The generous students and faculty filled the room to capacity and later asked thoughtful questions and lined up to have their books signed. At the invitation of Dr. Cristina Herrera, I met MeCha students and saw Alex Espinoza again. Yesterday, I had the honor of being the visiting author for the Spring Arts Literary Festival at EPCC. Thanks to Rich Yañez for the warm welcome and to Pat Minjarez for her hospitality. On the road to El Paso, I stopped in Tucson to meet with Elena Díaz Bjorkquist and Rosi Andrade of Sowing the Seeds, a collective of women writers. We had chorizo, pan dulce, coffee, and discussed the banning of books in Tucson, specially Suffer Smoke.
Elena Díaz Bjorkquist was taken aback at the idea of having her book, Suffer Smoke, banned. The book is an important part of Chicano history. The stories record what life was like in Morenci, a copper mining town. Among her many hats, Elena was once a history teacher. "There was nothing in the book, just sharing the reality of the people who lived in the mining town in Arizona, and were taken advantage of," she said. "I wrote for myself, then for my kids. When I read at the university where I attended college, the kids related to my stories; my book needed a wider audience."
Ernest Hogan's post from on La Bloga yesterday outlines the absurdity of banning books and banning songs, all in fear that we will take back Aztlán if we know our history. Elena Díaz Bjorkquist says she feels a sense of loss for the banning of Chicano books in Tucson Unified School District in Arizona, her home town. "These kids are are being robbed of their right to know of their heritage," she said. "Once you learn your history, you're proud."
Elena Díaz Bjorkquist wants to see a dialogue open up. Her solution to this shameful problem is communication. Part of her work with Sowing the Seeds is to empower women through written communication. Her stories and books celebrate history. Bjorkquist would like to see TUSD free the banned books and engage in a dialogue with its community.
Here's to promoting dialogue, communication, and freedom.
Last week, I had the pleasure of being interviewed on KPFA by Darren de Leon, Aztec Parrot DJ on Radio 2050, before my lecture on immigration and Ocotillo Dreams at CSU Fresno. Thank you poet Marisol Baca for hosting me in Fresno. Yesterday, I visited students at EPCC and was the visiting author for the Spring Literary Arts Festival in El Paso.
Next Stops: East L. A. Library and CSU Channel Islands
April 10, East L.A. Library, Tuesday 6pm to 7pm, at 4837 E. 3rd street, Los Angeles, CA 90022.
April 12 CSU Channel Islands, Broome Library 1360 4pm.