Poetry News

A Caravan of Contraband Books

By Harriet Staff

Responding to the adoption of a new controversial law in Arizona banning ethnic studies from the state's public school curriculum, Librotraficante—a coalition of writers, publishers, and activists—is leading a tri-state caravan, distributing donated books now considered contraband under the new legislation.

Last year, in an effort to protect against "ethnic chauvinism" Arizona legislators passed House Bill 2281, which states:

...a school district or charter school in this state shall not include in its program of instruction any courses or classes that include any of the following: promote the overthrow of the United States government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

The modifications to the curriculum required the removal of certain texts from Arizona public school libraries, including titles such as Dictionary of Latino Civil Rights History by Francisco A. Rosales and Drown by Pulitzer Prize winning author, Junot Díaz.

Tony Diaz, founder of Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say, says the extensive removal of Latino authors from the Arizona school libraries illuminated the need for a large-scale, organized response. “Every great movement is sparked by outrage at a deep cultural offense...When we heard that Tucson Unified School District administrators not only prohibited Mexican American Studies, but then walked into classrooms, and in front of young Latino students, during class time, removed and boxed up books by our most beloved authors - that was too much. This offended us down to our soul. We had to respond.”

Beginning in Houston on March 12th, the Librotraficanté Caravan will make its way across New Mexico before ultimately arriving in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to distributing contraband material, Librotraficanté will hold events, conferences, and workshops celebrating multiculturalism while creating networks for literary activism. Anyone interested in donating supplies or funding can do so here. Follow the Caravan's progress on twitter at @librotraficante.

Originally Published: March 1st, 2012