The bottom line: Many mind-opening, empathy-inducing, and freedom-enhancing books are effectively banned in the US right now. Let’s buy them, read them, discuss them, and share them. Just click here to do so.
As many of you have heard, this past academic year the Tuscon Unified School District shut down the Mexican American Studies Program to comply with Arizona State Superintendent John Huppenthal’s declaration that the program was in violation of a state law banning, among other things, classes that promote resentment toward a race or class. While an independent auditor’s report (mentioned in the Denver Post or featured in full here) found that the program was not in violation of the law but rather improved students’ educational outcomes and fostered a broad ethic of peace, Huppenthal thought otherwise.
For more on the controversy, here’s the NPR Story, a Jon Stewart clip, and a district representative indicating that the books have not been banned, but rather, “moved to a district storage facility.” There’s also a strong editorial in the Guardian, Anti-Intellectualism is Taking over the US, that takes this issue as its starting point.
At Building a Better World we are continuously engaged in efforts to interrogate structures of power and privilege as well as cultural assumptions. Recent related research demonstrates how effective literature is in efforts to foster empathy. Seeing from another’s perspective – something that is at the heart of so many of the works of literature below – is essential to building democratic life and, even more broadly, societies that recognize human rights across cultures and communities.
Click below, buy a banned book, read it, discuss it, share it with friends and neighbors – donate it to your local library or youth center. Enjoy the broadening and deepening experience of good literature and philosophy in a free society.
Choose among Freire, Shakespeare, Luis Alberto Urrea, Sandra Cisneros, Sherman Alexie, James Baldwin, and many other extraordinary authors.
A few bookstore-building editorial notes: I went with the most recent additions. In a few cases – most notably in respect to some of Che Guevara’s essays and speeches – some of the original texts were only available in compilations, so I added entire compilations instead of works unavailable in their individual formats. Enjoy the reading. I look forward to hearing about your favorite banned books.
Eric Hartman is a co-founder of this site, an independent consultant, and a university educator. During the coming year he will be leading a doctoral seminar on Fair Trade Learning for Prescott College.