Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Authors banned in Tucson Unified School District respond

[Note: A chronological list of links to AICL's coverage of the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies Department at Tucson Unified School District is here. Information about the national Mexican American Studies Teach-in is here. The best source for daily updates out of Tucson is blogger David Abie Morales at Three Sonorans.]
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As I find them, I will add responses from authors whose books were taught in the now-outlawed Mexican American Studies program at Tucson Unified School District:

SHERMAN ALEXIE 

On January 17th, 2012, Sherman Alexie tweeted:


Teachers who taught in the Mexican American Studies program that was shut down last week are no longer allowed to teach two of his books:



On January 29, 2012, I read Alexie's response at The Progressive. He wrote:
Let's get one thing out of the way: Mexican immigration is an oxymoron. Mexicans are indigenous. So, in a strange way, I'm pleased that the racist folks of Arizona have officially declared, in banning me alongside Urrea, Baca, and Castillo, that their anti-immigration laws are also anti-Indian. I'm also strangely pleased that the folks of Arizona have officially announced their fear of an educated underclass. You give those brown kids some books about brown folks and what happens? Those brown kids change the world. In the effort to vanish our books, Arizona has actually given them enormous power. Arizona has made our books sacred documents now.



RUDOLFO ANAYA (added on Jan 25, 2012):

On Friday, January 21, Rudolfo Anaya was on Jay Nightwolf's radio program. You can listen to the program by going to the Zinn Education Project website. Anaya is the author of Bless Me Ultima, and The Anaya Reader, two books that were taught in the Tucson Unified School District's Mexican American Studies program that was shut down.







JIMMY SANTIAGO BACA

On January 28, 2012, I read Jimmy Santiago Baca's response at The Progressive. In part, he writes:
The banning in Tucson is a political tactic to oppress us, just the latest attempt of many to lie to us, to spread distortions, to enfeeble us by taking away our rights to education. They know that education is a way to achieve equality, to empower ourselves, to see ourselves with pride and enhance our self-esteem. Books that see us as intelligent, that reflect our experience in a healthy light, lend themselves to invigorating our resistance against injustice.
Six of his books were used in the now-banned Mexican American Studies program, including A Place to Stand.




BILL BIGELOW

On January 13, 2012, Bill Below wrote on the Rethinking Schools blog: 
Rethinking Schools learned today that for the first time in its more-than-20-year history, our book Rethinking Columbus was banned by a school district: Tucson, Arizona.  [...] What’s to fear? Rethinking Columbus offers teaching strategies and readings that teachers can use to help students consider perspectives that are too often silenced in the traditional curriculum. 

Teachers who taught in the Mexican American Studies program that was shut down last week are no longer allowed to teach Rethinking Columbus, a book he edited that includes essays, poems, and prose by American Indian writers.




JOSEPH BRUCHAC

In an email to me on January 17, 2012, Joseph Bruchac said:

In the long run, I think the actions of the Tucson
School Board may end up in a positive way--by
drawing attention back to RETHINKING COLUMBUS
and creating further awareness of the complex legacy
of Cristobal Colon. Either this was their intention all
along (closet progressives that they are on the school
board) or (thinking in terms of nautical metaphors), they
are attempting to save the sinking ship of the myth of
heroic European colonialism by an action as effective as
bailing with a tea cup!
His essay, "A Friend of the Indians" is in Rethinking Columbus, a book that teachers who taught in the Mexican American Studies program are no longer allowed to teach.

RICHARD DELGADO and JEAN STEFANCIC (added Jan 31, 2012):

On January 31, 2012, I read Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic's response at The Progressive. Here's an excerpt:
Young minds will not learn about critical race theory or Latino history or the historic struggles of their predecessors for school desegregation, immigration reform, and equal rights. They may learn about them piecemeal, but without an overarching framework, it will be difficult for them to develop a comprehensive view of race in American society. 
Their book, Critical Race Theory, was taught in the now-shut down Mexican American Studies department at Tucson Unified School District.





JUNOT DIAZ (added January 29, 2012):

On January 29, 2012, I read Junot Diaz's response at The Progressive:
This is covert white supremacy in the guise of educational standard-keeping--nothing more, nothing less. Given the sharp increase of anti-Latino rhetoric, policies, and crimes in Arizona and the rest of the country, one should not be surprised by this madness and yet one is. The removal of those books before those students' very eyes makes it brutally clear how vulnerable communities of color and our children are to this latest eruption of cruel, divisive, irrational, fearful, and yes racist politics. Truly infuriating. And more reason to continue to fight for a just society. 
His book, Drown was taught in the now-banned Mexican American Studies program.



MARTIN ESPADA (added January 31, 2012)

Earlier today, I read Martin Espada's response at the Progressive website. He said, in part:
In the end, this is just another bomb threat. All they have done is force us to evacuate the building. We will gather ourselves in the dark, and keep reading to each other in whatever light we can find.
His book, Zapata's Disciple: Essays, can no longer be taught by teachers who taught in the now-banned Mexican American Studies Department at Tucson Unified School District.




DAGOBERTO GILB (added January 31, 2012)

Yesterday, I read Dagoberto's response at The Progressive website:
What subversive information did those Tucson students learn? What is kept from the government-approved textbooks and classrooms all across the West?: You don’t have to be from somewhere else more important and better to be a lawyer or an artist or a doctor or scientist. You don’t have to leave your culture. You don’t have to be ashamed that your parents struggled with English. We don’t have to accept being only the cooks and maids, custodians and gardeners.
Two of his books are on the Cambium audit and can no longer be taught by the teachers in the now-banned Mexican American Studies Department.





SUZAN HARJO

In an email to me on January 18, 2012, Susan Harjo said:
The banned books and other materials removed from the Tucson public schools are a good start for a required reading list. I consider it a mark of distinction to be among the banned authors for my part of Rethinking Columbus. I am honored to be in the company of other writers who are targeted in Arizona's war on ethnic studies. I hope their reckless actions help raise awareness among more and more people of good will about what this last gasp of white supremacy is doing to our children and young people. 
Her essay, "We Have No Reason to Celebrate" is in Rethinking Columbus, a book that teachers who taught in the Mexican American Studies program are no longer allowed to teach.

Update, January 25th, 2012: Harjo wrote an extended essay for Indian Country Today. For more on her response to being banned, see Rethinking Columbus: Book Banning in Tucson.

WINONA LADUKE (added January 25, 2012):

On January 21, 2012, Winona LaDuke's response to being banned was published at INFORUM. Her essay is in Rethinking Columbus, one of the books boxed up and removed from classrooms in Tucson Unified School District. Rethinking Columbus is no longer being taught in TUSD. See LaDuke's "On Being Banned in Tucson."

WILLIAM L. KATZ

On January 18, 2012, via email, I received William L. Katz's response:
As the writer of two essays contributed from my Black Indians: A Hidden Heritage to Rethinking Columbus, a former public school teacher for fourteen years, and the writer of forty history books that have earned praise from sources ranging from the Wall Street Journal to Howard Zinn, I can only hope this pathetic censorship of ideas and knowledge that aims to keep young people uninformed about their lives, their society and the struggles that shaped their country and world, that this stupid decision in Arizona, will finally lead to a resounding victory for an inclusive, multicultural curriculum. We all deserve that, to read what we want, to learn what we need, and to understand our history not as patriotic, tasteless pablum, but something substantial and true enough to enable us to live in a country and world that was built by women and men of every race and region, and to appreciate and enjoy our neighbors. Part of this is learning that women and men were not handed democracy and justice but often had fight and sometimes die for it, and this is particularly true if they were in the way of those bent on conquest, exploitation, or just the pursuit of obscene profits.

His essay, "Black Indians and Resistance" is in Rethinking Columbus, a book that teachers who taught in the Mexican American Studies program are no longer allowed to teach.

MATT DE LA PENA

On January 16th, Matt de la Pena wrote on his blog:
A truly scary situation. Tucson schools have just “shut down” all courses related to Mexican American Studies (in essence, banning Chicano authors). If you’re familiar with Tucson’s racial makeup, you know this means that literally thousands of Chicano students will no longer be allowed to see a reflection of themselves in literature. The teachers literally had to pack up the books and remove them from their classrooms.

Teachers who taught in the Mexican American Studies program that was shut down last week are no longer allowed to teach his book, Mexican WhiteBoy.


BOB PETERSON (added Jan 31, 2012)

On January 16, 2012, Bob Peterson wrote on his blog:
What’s most disturbing is the banning’s broader context, in particular Arizona’s anti-immigrant legislation and the move across the country toward scripted curriculum that too often ignores students’ cultural heritages and that undermines the ability to promote critical thinking. On a more positive note, however, the banning can be seen as the flailing of small-minded bigots attempting to derail multicultural, anti-racist curriculum. In this sense, the move is similar to the anti-gay rantings of Santorum and Company. 
Teachers who taught in the Mexican American Studies program that was shut down last week are no longer allowed to teach Rethinking Columbus, a book he edited that includes essays, poems, and prose by American Indian writers.



CORNEL PEWEWARDY

On January 20, 2012, Cornel Pewewardy sent me the following comment by email:

The "Empire" Strikes Back via a Neoliberal Agenda

His essay, "A Barbie-Doll Pocahontas" is in Rethinking Columbus, a book that teachers who taught in the Mexican American Studies program are no longer allowed to teach.


ROBERTO RODRIGUEZ (added on Jan 25, 2012):

On Friday, January 21, Roberto Rodriguez was on Jay Nightwolf's radio program. You can listen to the program by going to the Zinn Education Project website. Rodriguez is the author of Justice: A Question of Race and The X in La Raza II (I am unable to locate a cover of the book; please send me a link or image), both of which were used in the Tucson Unified School District's Mexican American Studies program that was shut down.



LUIS ALBERTO URREA (added January 29, 2012)

On January 29, 2012, I read Luis Alberto Urrea's response at The Progressive website:

The issue seems to be the power boys and girls are afraid that studying MacArthur winning Tohon O'odam poet Ofelia Zepeda is un-American. Cult-like. Divisive. Yes, that's right--Indians are out too. Sherman Alexie, that notorious wetback, has been ba--ed, boxed. As well as that notorious narco, Guillermo Shakespeare. Thoreau--well. Come on. When isn't Thoreau banned? I hereby make him an Honorary Homeboy.

Urrea is the author of five books on the list of works taught by teachers in the now-banned Mexican American Studies program, including The Devil's Highway: A True Story. 

 
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FOR A COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF AICL'S COVERAGE, CLICK ON:
AICL Coverage of Arizona Law that resulted in shut down of Mexican American Studies Program and Banning of Books

9 comments:

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

Debbie, do you know if the books are out of the schools entirely or if they're still available in the school library? Also, can the books be taught in other courses like, say, English? Trying to get a bead on the breadth of this thing...

Debbie Reese said...

A student in one of the videos works in the high school library. Books are still there and she said she did not think they would be removed from the library.

Teachers who taught in the program are reassigned but not allowed to teach the books they taught in the Mexican American Studies program. They will be monitored to make sure they don't teach those books.

Teachers who teach courses outside of the Mexican American Studies program ARE able to teach those books. The example given is Anaya's BLESS ME ULTIMA.

Marjorie said...

This is almost ludicrous. It beggars belief that this should be happening. I have just started reading into it. Am I right that there are students who are challenging the move - and, please excuse my ignorance, when did it all start to unravel?

Debbie Reese said...

Liz Martinez submitted the following comment by email:

I am a contributor to and co-editor of two books ("Hit List:The Best of Latino Mystery," Arte Publico; and "Indian Country Noir," Akashic Press) to which several authors contributed who are now on the TUSD banned-book list.

I conceived of these two anthologies because for far too long, Hispanics and Natives have been invisible in a nation that saw only black and white. As a Mexican-American of Native ancestry, I am well aware that too much of our collective talent remains unseen and unheard.

United States residents of Mexican heritage and Native American heritage (as well as every other heritage) need to know that they have ancestry to be proud of. By providing additional education to make young people aware of the contributions of their ancestors to the formation of the United States, we give them the pride that allows them to be better citizens. Self-loathing serves no constructive purpose, and in fact, leads to self-destructive behaviors, including alcoholism, drug addiction, under- or unemployment -- and other conditions often seen in minority enclaves...not because minorities are lazy, shiftless, worthless, etc., as they have been characterized, but because they have been taught they are worthless. Learning about and celebrating one's heritage is a goal to be lauded, not vilified.

For those who claim that a course in European-American history would not be allowed in schools, I point out the fact that ALL U.S. history courses taught in this country are, in fact, taught from the European perspective. Why? Because white Americans made up the majority and therefore, made up the rules. With an increase in the Hispanic population, it is consistent with this country's past actions to teach Hispanic heritage, just as European heritage has been taught for so many decades.

Removing books into boxes is censorship if students are no longer exposed to the material. Censorship can only be damaging. Exposure to ideas is not harmful. If those ideas do not correlate with the parents' ideas, it is up to the parents to enter into a discussion with their children about their varying perspective. THIS is learning.

And for those who are uncomfortable about people who have a dual heritage, or as the late mystery novelist Ed McBain (Evan Hunter), a man of Italian extraction, put it: hyphenated Americans, please note that the book "Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery" contains contributions from U.S.-based Latino mystery writers. Some are about Latinos, and some are not. All are excellent, and all are written from the perspective of Hispanic Americans, without which this culture would be the poorer, indeed.

# # #

"Hit List" Contributors (S. Cortez and Liz Martinez, Eds.):

Mario Acevedo
Lucha Corpi
Sarah Cortez
Carolina García-Aguilera
Alicia Gaspar de Alba
Carlos Hernandez
Rolando Hinojosa-Smith
Bertha Jacobson
John Lantigua
Arthur Muñoz
R. Narvarez
L.M. Quinn
Manuel Ramos
S. Ramos O'Briant
A.E. Roman
Steven Torres
Sergio Troncoso


"Indian Country Noir" Contributors (S. Cortez and Liz Martinez, Eds.):

Foreword by Richard B. Williams, president & CEO of the American Indian College Fund
Mistina Bates

Jean Rae Baxter,
Lawrence Block,
Joseph Bruchac
David Cole
Reed Farrel Coleman
O'Neil De Noux
A.A. HedgeCoke
Gerard Houarner
Liz Martinez
R. Narvaez
Kimberly Roppolo
Leonard Schonberg
Melissa Yi

Anonymous said...

This an outrage! What are they thinking?

Katrina Bergen said...

Debbie,

Please keep us informed about this - is there any backlash? - how can teachers be kept from teaching those books? Sounds like the ACLU should be involved. Crazy.

Anonymous said...

please consider signing this petition to help reinstate the use of these books...thanks!

Anonymous said...

please consider signing this petition to help reinstate the use of these books...thanks!

http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-superintendent-of-public-instruction-putting-books-in-storage-does-not-promote-education

Ashley Hope Pérez said...

Thank you, Debbie, for your clear coverage of this issue--and for clarifying the status of books like BLESS ME, ULTIMA, and MEXICAN WHITEBOY. This may not be "as bad" as removal of the books from the schools (indeed, my students would be seeking the books out in defiance!), but it IS banning specific teachers from using material that can meet state and district learning objectives AND connect with readers of all backgrounds.

These teachers have been singled out in a way that would be crushing for their efficacy in the classroom and a terrible blow to the students trying to find their way. As a teacher myself, I can only imagine the pain of feeling deeply convicted that there is a text which would meet my students' needs but that I am now banned from teaching.