Sunday, April 29, 2012

Arizona book ban and librotraficantes

The Arizona legislature has passed a bill ( House bill 2281) which outlaws ethnic studies programs that "promote resentment toward a race or class of people" "advocate ethnic solidarity instead of...pupils as individuals" "are designed for pupils of a particular ethnic group" or "promote the overthrow of the United States government". Tucson schools then shut down a K-12 Mexican American Studies program, banned a number of books by Mexican American and Native American authors, and came into the schools to seize over 80 titles from school libraries and students. (the former superintendant of state schools, Tom Horne, is now the state's attorney general behind the banning) Students immediately began protesting, and a new breed of smugglers, librotraficantes, has arisen to help supply the banned books to students. Calling themselves "librotraficantes", a group of book smugglers filled a bus with over 1000 banned books (now known as "wet-books")and headed for Tucson, stopping along the way for a reading by banned author Sandra Cisneros (The House on Mango Street) and a visit with banned author Rudolfo Anaya(Bless Me, Ultima). Now the librotraficantes are planning to set up underground libraries featuring work by Mexican American and Native American authors, called the rooms "Read Easies" after the speak-easies of the past. You can read the librotraficante manifesto and news of future plans, read a list of the banned books, and make a donation, here One of the books seized in Tucson was ReThinking Columbes: The Next Five Hundred Years, a book that includes work by Native American authors including Mohawk poet/storyteller Peter Blue Cloud. We published Peter's book of coyote poems Back Then Tomorrow in 1979 from our own Blackberry Books. It has been out of print for over a decade, but on hearing this news we have brought it back into print, and sent copies to Tucson. Viva Librotraficantes!