Here a ban, there a ban…

Everywhere a book ban? It’s been thirty years since the American Society of Journalists and Authors launched its Banned Books campaign in NYC, complete with a nifty “I Read Banned Books” button, a move motivated by concerns that “schools and libraries around the country were pulling books off the shelf because of objections to language contained in them.”

At the time, banned titles included “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “Huckleberry Finn” — plus works by John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, J.D. Salinger, Bernard Malamud, Kurt Vonnegut, Isaac Asimov and ASJA member Eve Merriam.

Folks opposed to book banning gathered on the steps of the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue for a public read-out from banned works. Readers included Merriam, Asimov and then-teenager Sarah Jessica Parker. The April 1, 1982 event was organized by Evelyn Kaye of the ASJA.

Arizonans committed to assuring that students have access to books once used in ethnic studies classes within the Tucson Unified School District are gathering this week to stage a similar protest at the Arizona State Capitol and Wesley Bolin Plaza.

The read-in, organized by the Arizona Ethnic Studies Network, will feature dozens of readers including educators, students and concerned citizens. Also novelist and university lecturer Stella Pope Duarte, state Senator David Lujan and Phoenix-based playwright James E. Garcia.

The school district reports that no books have been banned, noting that books once used in ethnic studies classes have been moved to storage. And that they’re working to broaden the social studies curriculum to include more diverse content for all students.

Some consider removing particular books from classrooms a de facto form of book banning. Hence the read-in scheduled for Wed, Feb. 29, from 10am to 5:15pm — and a caravan heading our way from Houston next month with copies of books they’re eager to get into student hands.

This year’s Banned Books Week takes place Sept. 30-Oct. 6. Folks eager to read up on the topic beforehand can visit to explore a map charting censorship by state, enjoy a virtual read-out, find additional resources on book banning and locate related events.

The website also notes which titles are causing all the fuss these days — for those of you inclined to read a book simply because it feels verboten. The top ten list of challenged titles for 2010 includes both the “Twilight” (Stephenie Meyer) and “Hunger Games” (Suzanne Collins) series. Finally, a reason to read those babies.

First I plan to tackle the titles once used in Tucson’s former Mexican American Studies class — “Critical Race Theory” edited by by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, “500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures” edited by Elizabeth Martinez, “Message to AZTLAN” by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales, “Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement” by Arturo Rosales, “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos” by Rodolfo Acuna, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire and “Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years” by Bill Bigelow.

Unlike “Twilight” or “The Hunger Games,” I can’t just hold out for the movie version.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to explore a wealth of Banned Books Week information and resources compiled by the American Library Association.

Coming up: Once upon a goddess


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