Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Debbie Reese Featured on Banner at City Lights Books

A few weeks ago I received an email from staff at City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. They were creating new banners for their storefront. For this set they wanted to address book banning and asked if they could include an image of me, and an image of An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, for Young People (Jean Mendoza and I adapted the original by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz), and a quote from an interview of me in the Southern Poverty Law Center's magazine (Spring 2022), Learning for Justice

Of course, I said yes. It is important that a Native voice be included (thank you, City Lights!). The banners went up earlier this week. Here's a photo of all of them, and below is a closer look at mine. 

The City Lights social media accounts include this paragraph:
Join us in working to stop the wave of censorship being pushed by reactionary forces across the United States. Stand strong with your librarians who are under direct attack, fight back and raise your voice at your local school board meetings and be sure to support the authors and bookstores who continue to provide an inclusive, truthful cultural lexicon for all.
City Lights also includes quotes from all the people on the banners. I'm copying them here:
Allen Ginsberg: “They censor words, not the things they denote.”
Toni Morrison: “Fear of unmonitored writing is justified because truth is trouble.”
Debbie Reese: “They are taking away mirrors for kids who so desperately need to see themselves in books.”
Luis Rodriguez: “Censorship is against reality. Those who ban books underestimate readers.”
Maia Kobabe: “Certain parts of the country may be fixated on censoring me, but I will not be censoring myself.”
In the interview with SPLC (where my quote is from), I talked about the importance of books written by Native people, for children who are Native.

Since then I have been thinking that current efforts to remove our voices from the shelves are another version of killing the Indian. I'm working on an article about it. In short, some of you know that the federal government established boarding schools for Native children in the 1800s to 'kill the Indian in him and save the man.' The federal schools were preceded by mission schools that sought to eradicate our religions. Many of them were funded by the federal government. Then in the 1900s, there were nationwide efforts to take Native children from their families and tribal nations, placing them in white homes. That, too, is characterized as an effort to kill the Indian. 

These are all genocidal actions taking place on Native homelands. 

Please work with us, as City Lights asks, to stop censorship by reactionary forces. Support teachers and librarians in your area when they are attacked for using books by Native writers. When you're at your library, ask for books by Native writers. Wherever you are, you are on lands that are, or were, homelands of Native peoples. Who are they? What do you know about them? Are there any books by writers of those tribal nations? The strongest words in the City Lights paragraph above are "raise your voice." Please do. Raise Your Voice.