Every week is banned books week for Chicanos.
In Arizona, two Chicana high school students, Maya Arce and Korina Lopez, await word of when their case against Arizona HB 2281 goes up before the 9th Circuit Court of appeals.
That's because in 2012, via AZ HB 2281, Arizona officials banned Mexican American Studies, claiming it promoted the overthrow of the government.
That statement is full of so many ironies I don't know where to begin.
Since it's Banned Books Week, for everyone else, let's start there. Typically, challenging a book is hard work.
You have to read the book -- well, at least the paragraph or sentence that boggles your mind, or that people have told you should offend you. You have to fill out a form, sign your name, let your neighbors know that you're a book banner.
Turns out Arizona is streamlining the process. With Arizona House Bill 2282, which prohibits any courses or classes that "promote the overthrow of the government," AZ officials were able to effectively challenge over 80 books in one swoop. Some were even carted out of classrooms and boxed during class time, in front of our youth.
These books were part of the curriculum for the K-12 Mexican American Studies Program at Tucson Unified School District.
The books include novels such as The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, and The Magic of Blood by Dagoberto Gilb.
There are more. So this Banned Books Week, starting Wednesday, September 24 through October 1, every hour, from 9 am to 9 pm, the Librotraficantes will tweet and post the title and author of one of the books on the list of MAS Banned Books. It will take us all week to do it. There are that many. We'll be using the hash tags #MASbannedbooks #MASbannedbooksweek and #Librotraficante.
When we Librotraficantes smuggled the banned books back into Arizona during our 2012 Librotraficante Caravan, I re-read some of the works to see what I had missed upon my first read because I couldn't think of one of them promoting the overthrow of the government.
I don't remember young Esperanza, the protagonist of Sandra Cisneros' The House On Mango Street, even uttering the word "government." Did the chapter titled "Bums in the Attic" hint at some sort of populist armed agenda? If so, I couldn't find it.
In fact, of the list of over 80 titles, there aren't any books that are even slightly useful manuals for overthrowing the government.
So I decided to instead find some.
I found two right away: The Conquest of Gaul and The Civil War, both by Julius Caesar.
The Conquest of Gaul is mind-blowing because it is basically Julius Caesar convincing the Roman elite and the Roman people that he needed to attack the hordes of barbarians they called the Germani who surrounded their borders and who any day might wash over them. If he added, "and took their jobs," he might be talking about modern far-right Republican Immigration views. That actually sounds like the template used to create Arizona SB 1070, the "show me your papers law," that launched the current anti-immigrant movement.
Come to think of it, in The Civil War, Julius Caesar justifies his atrocities against fellow Romans who opposed him by making them sound unpatriotic so that he could create policies that took power away from the people until he was able to squash his competition, destroy all dissent, and create an empire. Ironically, he made it seem as if he was suppressing those who were overthrowing the government, when in fact he was toppling the Republic.
Which takes me back to the list of books banned in Arizona.
Esperanza, from The House On Mango Street, resembles the young high school students suing Arizona, Maya and Korina -- actually Cisneros does too.
That's what Arizona Republicans are scared of.
Those 80-plus books on the Banned MAS curriculum are starter books. They get our youth hooked on words, as they did with me.
Then, after mind-altering doses of Zinn and Critical Race Theory, we move on to harder reads, like The Conquest of Gaul.
This is what they fear. They fear so many of us dropping knowledge and realizing that it's the book banners who want to overthrow democracy and freedom of speech.
The Arizona book banners aren't afraid that the next Julius Caesar will simply go by the name "Julio." They're scared that their next governor might.
Arizona should drop the case defending the un-American law HB 2281 (A.R.S. § 15-112 in recent court documents). They should reinstate the Mexican American Studies program they dismantled at Tucson Unified School District. They should rehire the MAS teachers they fired, and they should admit they were wrong.
Or, if Arizona does want to send America to the Roman Age, they should then ban ALL courses that promote the overthrow of the government, such as any survey of the American Civil War. The rebel South didn't simply promote the overthrow of the government -- they actively engaged in it.
And they should ban Julius Caesar's books The Conquest of Gaul and The Civil War.
I'm okay with that because I've already read them.
And once you've read a banned book, they can never take it away from you.
We will launch our MAS Banned Book list during the Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say Radio Show in Houston, Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 6pm-7pm, Central, on 90.1 FM KPFT Houston, Texas. Live stream & iTunes on www.KPFT.org.
We will let folks know about book drives, and you'll also meet some of the banned authors, too.
We will also give you updates on the status of the lawsuit against Arizona House Bill 2281.