Sunday, March 04, 2012

Libro Traficante: A Focus on the Banned Books List by Amelia M.L. Montes (

Reporting today on Libro Traficante, the writers’ caravan traveling from Houston to Arizona-- bringing with them the books Arizona has banned and planning banned book readings at various stops along the journey. Some of the authors who will be taking time out of their busy schedules to join the caravan are: Sandra Cisneros, Dagoberto Gilb, Helena María Viramontes, Stephanie Griest Elizondo, Manuel Muñoz, Denise Chavez, Luis Urrea.

DATES: March 12 – 18th

Check out the Libro Traficante website (click here) to get all the information you need: dates, where they will be stopping, more authors joining the caravan, etc., and their listing of what books Arizona has specifically banned.

And stay tuned for La Bloga writer, Michael Sedano’s posts. He will be joining the caravan and reporting from the road starting on March 12th. Orale Em Sedano!

Today—I want to take the time here to look at some of the books Arizona has banned. Since I physically cannot join the caravan, I will dedicate this post to showing pictures of the banned books with links and short descriptions so you, dear Bloga reader, might consider ordering and reading at least one of them. If you can’t travel with the Libro Traficante caravan, join in the protest by reading one of the following banned books!

When I first heard the news that Arizona had closed down Mexican American Studies and had banned all the books used in this program, I was not surprised. And yet—just today, I looked up President Harry Truman because I remember reading about his statements against censorship. What he said in 1950 unfortunately applies to this situation in 2012-- President Harry Truman’s message to Congress, August 8, 1950:

“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

President Harry Truman

This is how the legislature in Arizona sees Mexican American Studies and our books—as a “voice of opposition” and Arizona's “repressive measures” certainly have brought fear to many in Arizona and people in other states worry that their programs and books could be next. Fear. In the Mexican American Studies curriculum listing of books, the "opposition" this literature and these texts confront is ignorance, prejudice, and exclusion. Mexican American Studies and the diverse literature it offers, enriches and complicates the American literary and historical landscape. It dares to question, it seeks to enlarge the scope of perspectives, it is without fear in its commitment for the inclusion of everyone’s history.

Acoma Pueblo Indian, Simon Ortiz, Arizona State University Regents Professor of English and American Indian Studies said: “I am very stunned and shocked and very pissed off that the Tucson Unified School District would ban Mexican American Studies and books like Rethinking Columbus: The Next Five hundred Years that includes works by Indigenous (Native) authors Leslie Marmon Silko, N. Scott Momaday, Winona LaDuke, Buffy St. Marie, Joy Harjo . . . The banning explicitly and pointedly shows it is not only Mexican American Studies and people and so-called illegal immigrants that are targeted but Indigenous studies and people as a whole.” (click here to read entire article)

Indeed—one of the books on the list is Spokane/Coeur d’Alene American Indian writer, Sherman Alexie. His collection of short stories, Ten Little Indians, is riveting. In one story, a homeless man recognizes his late grandmother’s fancy-dance regalia in a pawnshop. The theme of loss and identity also connects with another story in the collection of a young girl finding strength and meaning in the reading of books.

Other books that are not Chicana, Chicano, or Mexican American are also on the list. And you may be surprised to see Shakespeare on the list. Yes—Arizona has banned Shakespeare’s The Tempest whose central themes focus on politics and religion, slavery, death and regeneration, friendship and forgiveness.

African American writer and activist, bell hooks’ book, Feminism for Everybody: Passionate Politics is a call to love, to engender mutual respect and justice.

bell hooks

“There can be no love without justice,” she writes. Also banned.

And now for a few of the Chicana and Chicano banned books which include two professors from Arizona. Why would a state ban the good work that its own professors are doing? It just doesn’t make sense. So let’s go first to Manuel:

Manuel Muñoz, a professor at The University of Arizona’s creative writing program is a short story writer and novelist. He has won countless awards for his fiction. His collection of short stories, ZigZagger: Stories is on the banned list.

Cover of ZigZagger: Stories

ZigZagger is a critically acclaimed collection illustrating rich and poignant perspectives of life in California’s Central Valley: the farmworker, the young Queer. Click HERE and read an excerpt from one of Muñoz's stories.

I was so excited when Tey Diana Rebolledo and Eliana S. Rivero’s anthology, Infinite Divisions: An Anthology of Chicana Literature was first published. It was the first of its kind: poetry, fiction, non-fiction from the 19th century to the early 1990s. I still use it in my classes. It has become a classic.

Writer and playwright, José Antonio Burciaga’s Drink Cultura: Chicanismo was also banned. Do you think that maybe they were worried about “cultura” in the title? Is it fear again because we refuse to assimilate to some kind of definition they believe is the only definition for what it means to be “American"? Do you think so? This is an important book of essays focusing on Mexican American and Chicano perspectives and complexities in order to discuss the theme of identity.

Author Sandra Cisneros’s books have been banned at various times. This is no surprise. I chose to highlight Woman Hollering Creek mainly because of the focus on women and abuse, domestic violence. These are topics needing to be read, needing further discussion. Not silence. Not fear.

Another University of Arizona professor, Charlest M. Tatum, has published two anthologies of Chicana and Chicano writing. New Chicana/Chicano Writing and books like this one are important for emerging writers. Publisher’s weekly wrote: “Impressive collection of poetry and short stories.”

Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez has been such an important writer, activist, educator. Both her books are on the banned list. The first is 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures. Of course they would ban this book! It has photographic evidence of the struggles Chicanas and Chicanos have had to endure to make progress. As well, her other book, De Colores Means All of Us: Latina Views for a Multi-Colored Century supports her history in pictures with essays that focus on various Chicanas who participated and witnessed movements for civil rights, women’s empowerment, etc. These two books are very important in the understanding of Chicana history and strength.

Rodolfo F. Acuña, one of the leading Chicano History Professors and a Libro Traficante member is also a targeted author. His landmark book, Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, is now in its seventh printing. The magazine, Black Issues in Higher Education, writes that Professor Acuña “is one of the 100 most influential educators of the 20th century.” Acuña has also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from The Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America (MALDEF).

This prestigious banned list also includes Ana Castillo’s novel of memory and loss: So Far From God. Castillo's novel is set in the imagined town of Tome, New Mexico. Sofia and her daughters (Fe, Esperanza, Caridad, and La Loca) face a number of personal, social, cultural and environmental challenges and struggles. The first three sisters’ names translate to “faith, hope and charity.”

There are many more books listed (CLICK HERE)-- (on this website, find the link "Banned Book List" and you'll be able to download the listing). I ask you to join in solidarity to get the word out, to tell everyone what Libro Traficante is doing—publically speaking out against the banning of Mexican American Studies, Ethnic Studies, against censorship of our libros-- nuestra cultura. A society cannot grow and flourish without art, without literature and culture. Stop the fear. Stop the ignorance. You can be a part of Libro Traficante! Just click on the Libro Traficante website.

Wishing you, Dear Bloga reader—a Libro Traficante literary month of March! Orale!


Norma Cantu said...

Great post, Amelia...we can all do something--read the books! and teach them to our students...

AlvaradoFrazier said...

Thanks for the post and the video link: sharing it to my FB.
Please consider placing share buttons on your post for FB and Twitter. You have several great articles and share buttons would make it easier to spread the word. Thanks.

Librotraficante said...

Powerful words. Thanks for the support. Honored to be joined by LaBloga on the Librotraficante Caravan. Unidos!!!

Tony Diaz
El Librotraficante

Enrique Davalos said...

Gracias Bloga!

We have link your blog to our banned book display at San Diego City College:


Enrique Davalos