Back on the Banned Books Bandwagon

As a writer & a reader, this week I’m back on the Banned Books Bandwagon …  mainly because this kind of news (excerpted from Joyce Vance’s Civil Discourse column) plays havoc with my nervous system.

A Texas Trooper, Nicholas Wingate, has said he and another trooper were ordered to “push the people back into the water to go to Mexico” when they came upon a group of 120 migrants that include young children and mothers nursing babies. “I believe we have stepped over a line into the inhumane. We need to operate it correctly in the eyes of God,” the trooper wrote in an email. He also described a 19-year old woman, found doubled over in pain and having a miscarriage, while trapped in the razor wire the state of Texas has placed at the river’s edge.

I go back and read Richard Blanco’s “Complaint of the River Grande” again and get on with my day. Thank you, Nicholas Wingate, for your audacity in speaking out. I wonder if you still have a job, and are you safe?

american dirtHave you read Jeanine Cummins’ novel, American Dirt? Why that story has not (yet) made it onto the Banned Book list, is a mystery to me.  If the first seven pages don’t grab you where you live, I don’t know what to say. While the book has been called not only a “Grapes of Wrath for our times,” but one of this decade’s “most important books,” it has also been criticized for being authored by a non-Latina. Currently being discussed in her local library book group, my Arizona friend tells me in her email this morning, “We agreed that this author’s “more white” perspective might have made the book more accessible to our mostly white, middle class, reading group”. Hmmnn. Interesting. Whatever works.

I’m offering a link here to a publication called The New Republic. I think that some of you, like me, are subscribers. Or maybe you’ve never heard of them. No matter. Don’t let the word “Fund” throw you. They do ask for donations here, but that’s not why I’m asking you to read it. Their words are worth chewing on, especially the second paragraph:

Censorship is a centuries-old tool in the conservative battle against freedom of thought. But the current right-wing campaign is the cruelest one in decades, backed by laws that specifically target LGBTQ authors and people of color, and enforced by secret informants and vigilante justice. On the basis of citizen tips, teachers now risk losing their jobs and some school librarians face up to $10,000 in fines and up to 10 years in prison—just for doing the work they’ve always done.

Enough said on that subject for now, unless you have comments to share  …  Time to shift gears and add my humble Farewell to the ‘last of the crooners’, the iconic Tony Bennett, who after giving us nearly a century of beautiful music, quietly traded this world for the next, leaving his heart forever in San Francisco.

And my humble gratitude to Mamie Till Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till, who 70 years ago bravely (audaciously) insisted that the world look directly at what Hate had done to her boy, and in doing so helped change the face of the Civil Rights Movement.

So then, dear friends and beloved rascals, let’s close today with a double serving of Food For Thought …. Nikki Giovanni’s “In Praise of a Teacher” and “Because of Libraries We Can Say These Things” by Naomi Shihab Nye.

In Praise of a Teacher


The reason Miss Delaney was my favorite teacher, not just my
favorite English teacher, is that she would let me read any book I
wanted and would allow me to report on it. I had the pleasure of
reading The Scapegoat as well as We the Living as well as Silver
 (which was about a whole bunch of rich folk who were
unhappy), and Defender of the Damned, which was about
Clarence Darrow, which led me into Native Son because the real
case was defended by Darrow though in Native Son he got the
chair despite the fact that Darrow never lost a client to the chair
including Leopold and Loeb who killed Bobby Frank. Native Son
led me to Eight Men and all the rest of Richard Wright but I
preferred Langston Hughes at that time and Gwendolyn Brooks
and I did reports on both of them. I always loved English because
whatever human beings are, we are storytellers. It is our stories
that give a light to the future. When I went to college I became a
history major because history is such a wonderful story of who we
think we are; English is much more a story of who we really are.
It was, after all, Miss Delaney who introduced the class to My
candle burns at both ends; /It will not last the night; /But, ah, my
foes, and, oh, my friends— /It gives a lovely light.
 And I thought
YES. Poetry is the main line. English is the train.

Because of Libraries We Can Say These Things


She is holding the book close to her body,
carrying it home on the cracked sidewalk,
down the tangled hill.
If a dog runs at her again, she will use the book as a shield.

She looked hard among the long lines
of books to find this one.
When they start talking about money,
when the day contains such long and hot places,
she will go inside.
An orange bed is waiting.
Story without corners.
She will have two families.
They will eat at different hours.

She is carrying a book past the fire station
and the five and dime.

What this town has not given her
the book will provide; a sheep,
a wilderness of new solutions.
The book has already lived through its troubles.
The book has a calm cover, a straight spine.

When the step returns to itself,
as the best place for sitting,
and the old men up and down the street
are latching their clippers,

she will not be alone.
She will have a book to open
and open and open.

Until next time … be well, be kind, don’t forget to sing and dance a little every day, no matter what, and OH YES, do try to read a banned book or two.

Published by Sulima Malzin

This 'Aging Rascal & Occasional Writer' invites you to embrace the world through her open window of poetry, art, activism, music, and humor.

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My friend, Carole Price, sent me a private email to say she had heard that American Dirt was, in fact, removed from some bookstores and that a number of events on the author’s book tour had been cancelled. If you have any more news or details about that, please join this conversation.

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