Tumbled Chikin

David Macinnis Gill Author of the Black Hole Sun series & Soul Enchilada
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Posts tagged "censorship"

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian is being challenged in a local school. A local TV station reported on the first salvo in the challenge by warning it’s readers that the word “masturbation” is “graphic content.” Below is my letter to the reporter objecting to that use.

(Here’s link to the report: http://bit.ly/TcU0F2)


Mr. Powell—
I read your article about the attempt to ban Parti-time Indian in the the Brunswick County Schools. I’m a professor of English Education at UNCW with a specialization in young adult literature. I’m a past-president of ALAN, the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE and a member of ALAN’s Committee on Censorship, so I have a long-standing interest in cases such as the ones you reported. If there is a formal challenge against Alexie’s novel, I will be there to speak against the banning.
But I’m not writing about that. I’m writing about the words on the webpage before the excerpt from the novel: “NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT BELOW” 
There is nothing graphic about the passage. It does not describe masturbation. It only uses the word. On a website that routinely shows car crashes, house fires, assault victims, and bloody crime scenes, the word masturbation is one of the least offensive things I’ve seen on your site.
Please consider asking your editor about removing the warning. It is unnecessary and it only serves to inflame the issue. As an entity protected by the same amendment that protects the author and readers of Part-time Indian, you should consider your role in any banning. Report the news but don’t be inflammatory. Masturbation is just a word. Putting an large block text above it is the same kind of reaction I would expect form seventh grade boys when someone says penis in the classroom. What does it say about WECT that violence is posted without a warning but a word gets a warning?
David Gill

The State of Arizona has passed a law making it illegal for schools to offer courses based on ethnic groups. In reaction Tucson’s school district has not only closed the courses, but has confiscated the materials used to teach those courses.  Apparently, if you are a member of an ethnic group on Arizona, the First Amendment of the Constitution does not apply to you.  Your voice doesn’t matter.  You cannot be heard.

I often take solace in the fact that I don’t reside in Arizona.  I take much less solace in the fact that the same wave of paranoia and meanness that has seized that state is spreading to other states, including several in the Southeast, where governments are stripping teachers and and their students of rights (TN) or practicing racial profiling under the guise of national security (AL).  

Matt de la Pena, a YA author, is one of the authors whose work was removed from the classrooms. As Matt says on his blog:  "Ironically, I’m scheduled to speak at Tucson High School on March 13. A young female student there spearheaded the whole thing. She went to the administration on her own accord and helped raise funds. She’s a self-admitted reluctant reader, but she was introduced to my books in a class much like the one above, and something clicked. Because of her effort and passion, this has been the visit I’m most looking forward to this year. I can’t wait to meet her."

Among the books removed from the curriculum:

Little Indians (2004), by S. Alexie
The Fire Next Time (1990), by J. Baldwin
Loverboys (2008), by A. Castillo
Women Hollering Creek (1992), by S. Cisneros
Mexican WhiteBoy (2008), by M. de la Pena
Drown (1997), by J. Diaz
Woodcuts of Women (2000), by D. Gilb
At the Afro-Asian Conference in Algeria (1965), by E. Guevara
Color Lines: “Does Anti-War Have to Be Anti-Racist Too?” (2003), by E. Martinez
Culture Clash: Life, Death and Revolutionary Comedy (1998), by R. Montoya et al.
Let Their Spirits Dance (2003) by S. Pope Duarte
Two Badges: The Lives of Mona Ruiz (1997), by M. Ruiz
The Tempest (1994), by W. Shakespeare
A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America (1993), by R. Takaki
The Devil’s Highway (2004), by L. A. Urrea
Puro Teatro: A Latino Anthology (1999), by A. Sandoval-Sanchez & N. Saporta Sternbach
Twelve Impossible Things before Breakfast: Stories (1997), by J. Yolen
Voices of a People’s History of the United States (2004), by H. Zinn

The books confiscated and banned are:

Critical Race Theory, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic
500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, edited by Elizabeth Martinez
Message to Aztlán, by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales
Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement, by F Arturo Rosales
Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, by Rodolfo Acuña
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, by Bill Bigelow

My question is: Who’s next?  Who will be silenced?  Whose story will remain unheard?