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Are banned books a new thing?

Writers, authors, and especially readers are disturbed by the ever-widening landscape of books that have been banned. When I read that authors Judy Blume, Jodi Picoult, and Maya Angelou are on the same list of books that have been banned, I think to myself, I want to be on that list. These authors have all shared important messages about America’s times and banning is a clear ramification of targeted political purpose. The idea of book banning seems easily explained when we review the overturning of Roe vs. Wade and the progress being made toward eradicating rights of women, African Americans, LGBTQI persons, and interracial marriage. Where extremist American politics stands is obvious.

My perspective is that book banning is not new but is being done overtly and differently than in the past. The censure of voices who have longed to be heard and should have been heard has been cleverly managed for most of our country’s young history. Blacks brought to the colonies for slavery were not allowed to read because of the power that individuals glean by literacy. Ruling by fear has been the order of how people in power have kept. I’m certain this will continue in order to keep targeted groups in subjugated places. As a writer, I have been delegated to certain platforms to share my messages and the narratives of people I hope that I am representing.

I am anxious when I put my pen to paper. On a personal level, fear tells me that my chances to sign a contract with a traditional publisher plummet if this blog post comes to light. My fear lies to me. My fear says I don’t have the education, the writing prowess, and the knowledge to have my writings accepted by a traditional publisher. For many years, I’d been told during writing seminars and workshops that only one percent of the authors represented by a then Big 5 traditional publisher would be Latinx. Simple statements such as Latinos don’t read has kept this state of affairs static for many years. That formula has changed, I believe, but only very recently. Latinx writers are finally being represented in increasing numbers. It’s still an arduous journey for the majority of writers. My belief tells me that the banning of books and the clever manner in which certain groups have not been allowed opportunity to speak at certain tables is the same.

Topics such as gay relationships, abortion, violence in schools, and in homes are those that certain cohorts in power would like to whitewash and pretend don’t exist. The history of slavery and its rampant and blatant racism are being removed from our shelves. Attempts to censure the history of concentration camps is yet another area where this is taking place. Take away the literature and the history no longer exist. Take away our voices and we don’t exist.

Librarians, teachers, and writers have stood steadfast in their quest to promote diverse writings to children. Too many of our young would have no access to their histories and be erased without the literature that narrates the stories of their lives. Children who miss the opportunity to read Native Son by Richard Wright or The Color Purple by Alice Walker won’t know that their types of suffering repeat over generations and must be stopped. The children who never leaf through Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird may experience what the protagonist experienced without reason. Children who don’t read many of the books that have been banned for extremists’ narrow motivation will never learn empathy, compassion, or love for others.

My own quest is to continue writing and sharing the experiences of our humanity. Fiction is a mirror to life. When we are unable to self-reflect and to see our parts as actors in this grand play, we won’t have the ability to identify or relate to others’ experiences. Writing and reading allow us just that. Let us not let the banning of lives continue to happen. We’ve experienced the squelching of our lives in too many other ways already. We must keep our voices strong using whatever measure possible.

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