When Tucson, Arizona abolished its much lauded Chican@ studies program from public schools earlier this year — removing dozens of titles from classrooms in the process — I was amazed (and relieved) to see the outcry. Underground libraries. Rallies. Petitions. Student activism. Online backlash. Public ridicule of the people behind the decision (including this Daily Show segment that is quite possibly the greatest clip EVER).
But one of my favorite responses to Tucson’s asinine decision has come in the form of the very thing Tucson became famous for banning: a book. Indie publisher Broken Sword Publications immediately sprung to action following Tucson’s decision and produced this anthology of Xican@ literature. Edited by Santino J. Rivera, the impressive end result is an eclectic collection of literature that embraces a broad array of Xican@ voices.
Among the pages of ¡Ban This!, one can find academic essays by scholars like Rodolfo Acuña (whose classic history text, Occupied America, was banned in Tucson) and poetry by author Luis Alberto Urrea (who wrote several books that were also banned in Tucson), as well as works by other established Xicano voices like Gustavo Arellano and Lalo Alcaraz. Some of the most poignant surprises, though, came from the numerous up-and-coming poets and authors who are still relatively unknown.
Of course, as a south Texan, I was particularly delighted to see some of the Rio Grande Valley crowd contributing their voices to the project. However, the anthology isn’t about any one area of the United States. Xican@s from all over chimed in to share their personal struggles, sense of humor, and/or forms of resistance. If there’s a unifying theme to this eclectic mix of scholarship, personal narratives, short stories, poetry, and comics, it’s this: you can try to erase our history and ban our books, but Xican@ voices will not be silenced.