Tucson schools bans books by Chicano and Native American authors
by Brenda Norrell, The Narcosphere (January 14, 2012)
TUCSON -- Outrage was the response to the news that Tucson schools has banned books, including "Rethinking Columbus," with an essay by award-winning Pueblo author Leslie Marmon Silko, who lives in Tucson, and works by Buffy Sainte Marie, Winona LaDuke, Leonard Peltier and Rigoberta Menchu.
The decision to ban Chicano and Native American books follows the 4 to 1 vote on Tuesday by the Tucson Unified School District board to succumb to the State of Arizona, and forbid Mexican American Studies, rather than fight the state decision.
Students said the banned books were seized from their classrooms and out of their hands, after Tucson schools banned Mexican American Studies, including a book of photos of Mexico. Crying, students said it was like Nazi Germany, and they were unable to sleep since it happened.
The banned book, "Rethinking Columbus," includes work by many Native Americans, as Debbie Reese reports, the book includes:
- Suzan Shown Harjo's "We Have No Reason to Celebrate"
- Buffy Sainte-Marie's "My Country, 'Tis of Thy People You're Dying"
- Joseph Bruchac's "A Friend of the Indians"
- Cornel Pewewardy's "A Barbie-Doll Pocahontas"
- N. Scott Momaday's "The Delight Song of Tsoai-Talee"
- Michael Dorris's "Why I'm Not Thankful for Thanksgiving"
- Leslie Marmon's "Ceremony"
- Wendy Rose's "Three Thousand Dollar Death Song"
- Winona LaDuke's "To the Women of the World: Our Future, Our Responsibility"
The now banned reading list of the Tucson schools' Mexican American Studies includes two books by Native American author Sherman Alexie and a book of poetry by O'odham poet Ofelia Zepeda.
Jeff Biggers writes in Salon:
The list of removed books includes the 20-year-old textbook "Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years," which features an essay by Tucson author Leslie Silko. Recipient of a Native Writers' Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award and a MacArthur Foundation genius grant, Silko has been an outspoken supporter of the ethnic studies program.
Biggers said Shakespeare's play "The Tempest," was also banned during the meeting this week. Administrators told Mexican-American studies teachers to stay away from any class units where "race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes."
Other banned books include "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" by famed Brazilian educator Paulo Freire and "Occupied America: A History of Chicanos" by Rodolfo Acuña, two books often singled out by Arizona state superintendent of public instruction John Huppenthal, who campaigned in 2010 on the promise to "stop la raza." Huppenthal, who once lectured state educators that he based his own school principles for children on corporate management schemes of the Fortune 500, compared Mexican-American studies to Hitler Jugend indoctrination last fall.
Bill Bigelow, co-author of Rethinking Columbus, writes:
Imagine our surprise. 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 ...
As I mentioned to Biggers when we spoke, the last time a book of mine was outlawed was during the state of emergency in apartheid South Africa in 1986, when the regime there banned the curriculum I'd written, Strangers in Their Own Country, likely because it included excerpts from a speech by then-imprisoned Nelson Mandela. Confronting massive opposition at home and abroad, the white minority government feared for its life in 1986. It's worth asking what the school authorities in Arizona fear today.
Roberto Rodriguez, professor at University of Arizona, is also among the nation's top Chicano and Latino authors on the Mexican American Studies reading list. Rodriguez' column about this week's school board decision, posted at Censored News, is titled: "Tucson school officials caught on tape 'urinating' on Mexican students."
Rodriguez responded to Narco News about the ban on Sunday. "The attacks in Arizona are mind-boggling. To ban the teaching of a discipline is draconian in and of itself. However, there is also now a banned books list that accompanies the ban. I believe 2 of my books are on the list, which includes: Justice: A Question of Race and The X in La Raza. Two others may also be on the list," Rodriguez said.
"That in itself is jarring, but we need to remember the proper context. This is not simply a book-banning; according to Tom Horne, the former state schools' superintendent who designed HB 2281, this is part of a civilizational war. He determined that Mexican American Studies is not based on Greco-Roman knowledge and thus, lies outside of Western Civilization.
In a sense, he is correct. The philosophical foundation for MAS is a maiz-based philosophy that is both, thousands of years old and Indigenous to this continent. What has just happened is akin to an Auto de Fe -- akin to the 1562 book-burning of Maya books in 1562 at Mani, Yucatan. At TUSD, the list of banned books will total perhaps 50 books, including artwork and posters.
For us here in Tucson, this is not over. If anything, the banning of books will let the world know precisely what kind of mindset is operating here; in that previous era, this would be referred to as a reduccion (cultural genocide) of all things Indigenous. In this era, it can too also be seen as a reduccion."
The reading list includes world acclaimed Chicano and Latino authors, along with Native American authors. The list includes books by Corky Gonzales, along with Sandra Cisneros' "The House on Mango Street;" Jimmy Santiago Baca's "Black Mesa Poems," and L.A. Urreas' "The Devil's Highway." The authors include Henry David Thoreau and the popular book "Like Water for Chocolate."
On the reading list are Native American author Sherman Alexie's books, "Ten Little Indians," and "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven." O'odham poet and professor Ofelia Zepeda's "Ocean Power, Poems from the Desert" is also on the list.
DA Morales writes in "Three Sonorans," at Tucson Citizen, about the role of state schools chief John Huppenthal. "Big Brother Huppenthal has taken his TEA Party vows to take back Arizona . . . take it back a few centuries with official book bans that include Shakespeare!"