Some thoughts on Banned Books Week by Albuquerque writers...


Alamosa Books will be celebrating Banned Books Week, Sept 24
- Oct 1, by bringing together several writers who live in Albuquerque and Rio
Rancho, to read selected passages from their favorite banned books. The reading
takes place on Saturday, Oct 1, 1:00 to 2:30 pm. As always, the public is

Also, come in during the week and we will video record you
reading for two minutes from a banned book. The video will be submitted to the
youtube channel for Banned Books Week, and be available to be viewed with other
readers videotaped from all over the country.


Below are some thoughts from several of the eleven readers for Saturday's Banned Books event:


"Books are challenged for many reasons: too graphic, too obscene, sexual content, language, and inappropriate content (whatever that means), to name a few. I certainly understand why a parent may want to "protect" their children from learning about difficult things, but that is a parent's role, not the role of a public library or school charged with representing a myriad of views. Besides, there are so many benefits to reading. Good literature provokes discussion and reflective thinking about difficult topics and exposes the reader to new ideas and different ways of thinking, and good literature makes people feel they are not alone. The book I chose to read is a YA novel about a girl who lost her mother. It is a book I would have liked to have read when I was 13 and lost my mother."

- Jennifer Simpson is finishing her MFA at the University of New
Mexico-- working on her dissertation, "Reconstructing My Mother," a
memoir. She is the founder and co-host of Duke City DimeStories, a monthy open
mic for prose. Her work has been published in, Bartleby
Snopes, and Creative Human and community newspapers. She is a volunteer for the
Albuquerque Children's Grief Center.



“ A very common reason parents challenge books is because they are afraid that if their child reads of something bad happening to a character (usually as the result of a decision they've made,) that this same thing will happen to the reader. This magic thinking contradicts what I think actually happens: readers can learn valuable lessons about life. They can actually see the results of bad decisions and go, "Huh. Maybe doing that thing isn't such a good idea." And sometimes things happen to
characters that aren't the result of their doing the wrong thing. This is a valuable lesson, too, if only to show that sometimes life is capricious, but especially to show that bad things can be survived. Bad things can be learned from. Bad things can be put behind us."

- Steven Gould is the author of JUMPER which was on the 100 most banned books in
America list from 1990 to 1999. This was hard, since it wasn't even published
until late 1992 but through dint of hard work and offending the easily
offended, the novel managed to get on the list. Steve believes parents should
be involved in their own children's reading selections but not those of
children wholly unconnected to them.

"Within my own family, I have seen first-hand the effects of losing your ability to speak. My mother grew up in India, in a small village that did not encourage learning for women. The highest level of education she’d completed was middle school. When she moved to this country, my mother didn’t know how to
read. Because of her ignorance, many took advantage of her. Illiteracy is a form of censorship: a way to control and hinder.

I believe if she had been given access to learning and language, she would have thrived, and her life would have been drastically different. Most likely it would have been a happier existence: for herself and for her children.

When we fight for freedom of speech and the right to publish what we want, we must also remember that this right goes hand in hand with the right to learn and the right to read. Accessibility, especially for those who are marginalized, is valuable in order to create a fair and more equitable world."

- AnnamManthiram, novelist: is the author of the novel After the Tsunami and a
short story collection (Dysfunction), which was a Finalist in the 2010 Elixir
Press Fiction Award and received Honorable Mention in Leapfrog Press’ 2010
Fiction Contest. A graduate of the M.A. Writing program at the University of
Southern California, Manthiram resides in Rio Rancho.


"The banning, or the more mild and contemporary phrasing of the process, the "challenging" of books and the right to be placed on the shelves of our public and school libraries, the right to be sold in our communities via our bookstores, is an old and familiar event in mankind's history once it became obvious that knowledge is power. And the rewriting of history is key to maintaining control.

I witnessed this mentality firsthand as a bookseller for Barnes& Noble in Rockford, Illinois, sometime in the mid-1990s. Luis J. Rodriguez's memoir, "Always Running", was on the optional reading list at one of the local high schools. Did I say O-P-T-I-O-N-A-L? A student took the book home and
complained to her father about some of the content of the book (a harsh, blunt, realistic telling of becoming a gang member in Los Angeles, and the author's redemptive journey guided by reading, writing, and the arts.) The father turned the book over to a friend of his, a gentleman who hosted a daily talk radio show. The radio host began reading passages of the book (out of context) on his
semi-conservative show and implanted a mob mentality as his loyal listeners began to storm the local school board meetings and demand the banning of "Always Running."

Once again, the personal account of a member of a marginalized population's American experience was squashed, locked up where it would be out-of-sight-out-of-mind. His story conflicted with the dominant culture's own self-image, and would not be tolerated. Even if young latino students were
gravitating towards Luis' book: his words a reflection of their own experience and one that provided a glimpse into an alternative from la vida loca.

The conquistadors destroyed entire libraries of the indigenous peoples they enslaved in the Americas, the Nazi's whipped the German people into book burning frenzies, and today in the state sharing our western border, a law has been passed to suppress in the schools the texts and teachings that provide a people their own version of their place in the history of this country. And this is why practitioner's of freedom of thought and expression must never let down their guard."

- Richard Vargas, poet: McLife (Main Street Rag Press) and American Jesus (Tia
Chucha Press).

Views: 435

Comment by Rich Boucher on October 3, 2011 at 10:18am

"When someone sees a book that seems to be "inappropriate" to them and thinks it should not be on a library shelf somewhere, anywhere - this is a bad idea.  America was not founded on the idea of setting up cultural Ayatollahs to rule over what can be thought."


Well said, Stuart, well said.


If people fear that persons considered "too young" to read certain books could get their hands on them, perhaps that would be where the parents come in. As in, to help and to guide. If the parents are too busy/not there/uninterested/afraidofliteraturetheydon'tunderstand, this cannot be the problem of the library.


If a 5th grader gets a hold of a book that is "meant" for a senior or college freshman, more power to them.

Comment by Rich Boucher on October 3, 2011 at 10:20am

"Parents want to monitor what other kids in the school read, then they are imposing their own morales and political views."


I have fought battles against parents like these. It is good and honorable to be demonized by them; it's good to know who the enemy is.

Comment by Granjero on October 3, 2011 at 10:46pm

@Rich Boucher - Still a silly argument.  To suggest that there is no such thing as "age appropriate" books is.. well, silly. 


@Richard V - "I trust the school librarians and educators to make sure the reading available to the students in the schools is appropriate."

What does that mean exactly? Do you believe there are things that children shouldn't be reading?


@Rich Boucher - "I have fought battles against parents like these. It is good and honorable to be demonized by them; it's good to know who the enemy is."


Indeed.  Its good to know...

Comment by Rich Boucher on October 4, 2011 at 8:38am
AnotherMike asked, "Who gets to decide which books to ban from school libraries?"

An excellent question. And what would be someone's reason for jumping up to
the task of making that call? It is right, and good, to be suspicious
of someone who would leap and the chance to make such decisions.

Young people, old people, the age is not really the issue.
Should people be allowed to read? Yes.
Should people be allowed to read what they want to read? Yes. End of story.
Comment by Richard V on October 4, 2011 at 9:39am
granjero, i believe you brought up the hustler-mag-in-the-elementary school-library scenario. i concur. no need for that to be available to kids. common sense prevails, and once again i say that i trust the librarians and educators with their choices. although the first ray bradbury story i ever read was A Sound of Thunder, published in a playboy mag i found laying around when i was in the third or fourth grade. naked ladies? big deal. the illustration of the T-Rex caught my eye, i devoured the story. and to this day i credit ray bradbury for instilling in me the desire to write.
Comment by Granjero on October 4, 2011 at 2:44pm
I used to read a lot of Ray Bradury too along with every other sci-fi writer out there. Our family couldn't afford to buy books and the small town I grew up in, in Texas, was in short supply of good reading at the one room library. My jr. high principal once took me to his house to let me take any of the hundreds of science fiction books he had, because I would read constantly in school. (He'd probably be arrested or at least fired for doing that today) and I am forever grateful to him for doing that.

The point is Richard V, that you too have a line you draw, on what should or should not be available to kids. You trust the librarian until that librarian takes a stance on books you think are fine. Then, as Rich said, YOU become the enemy.

I believe in freedom of speech, more I think, than you do. I believe anything and everything should be allowed to be said, heard and or read. I believe the law against "hate speech" goes against every grain of our constitution.

Having said that, there is a line. Society and community decide where that line is in regards to the age their children should be confronted with this. Just as you feel hustler should not be in school rooms, some others feel that Lady Chatterly's Lover shouldn't either.

Teachers work for the community. They are not meant to be the decision makers of right and wrong. They are there at the behest of the parents of the children they are teaching. Not the other way around.
Comment by Richard V on October 4, 2011 at 6:00pm
i never had a problem with what was in the school library under the guidance and supervision of teachers and educators. i have a problem with parents of other kids setting themselves up to dictate to everyone else what all the other kids should be allowed to read. so, based on your announcement on how much you advocate freedom of speech, i guess you're now in favor of any and all reading material being available in a school library, unless your morales and good taste say otherwise? i'll let this thread rest. please feel free to proclaim your beliefs and support for freedom of speech, granjero. but based on all your comments posted here there is no way i would trust you to decide what is acceptable reading material for children in the schools or anywhere else.


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