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Read & Resist Tucson!

February 7, 2012

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I live in a city with a strong, proud Latin@ tradition; stepping out of my house, all five of my senses experience countless reminders of the Latin@ majority and its influence. And I love it. One of the things I missed most when I was living in Colorado was that cultural mixing. (My one tiny complaint is my fruitless search amongst the ESL offerings for an equivalent free Spanish as a second language class, which I’d sign up for in a heart beat!) My library has a wonderfully extensive Latin@ lit collection, and the city recently renamed a major street in honour of Cesar Chavez. So you can imagine how mind-boggling I find Tucson and its school board decision to ban Mexican-American studies from the classroom. The idea that studying the history and culture of an ethnic group other than white European-Americans is threatening seems to belong to another era. Although, last week I did come across the following passage, which wins the award for most unintentionally hilarious thing I’ve read in ages, in Tony Judt’s The Memory Chalet, which was published in 2010:

In academic life, the word has comparbly mischievous uses. Undergraduates today can select from a swathe of identity studies: “gender studies,” “women’s studies,” “Asian-Pacific-American studies,” and dozens of others. The shortcoming of all these para-academic programs is not that they concentrate on a given ethnic or geographical minority; it is that they encourage members of that minority to study themselves-thereby simultaneously negating the goals of a liberal education and reinforcing the sectarian and ghetto mentalities they purport to undermine.

Ah yes Tony, because all of those white, European men get their liberal education by studying people so different from them as Plato and Shakespeare and Locke and Yeats…which isn’t at all a para-academic program normally called “humanities studies” or what you might describe as a white, male educational ghetto. It’s just a coincidence. Ahem. (Can you guess I shall not be picking up more Bradt in the future?)

Back to the topic at hand. Fellow Texan Melissa has begun a new project to get people reading and discussing the books that the Tucson School Board found so dangerously revolutionary called Read & Resist Tucson! To participate, all you have to do is read & talk about at least one of the listed books. I happen to have already read ten of them, but due to my library’s previously mentioned thorough holdings, I can get my hands on pretty much all of the others. To be more specific, 57 of the actual titles plus another six listed authors whose other books are available. Let me tell you, narrowing things down as not easy. But in the end I managed. ;) This is a good mix of authors I’ve read and loved in the past and ones new to me; it’s quite heavy on the nonfiction and oddly (for me) weighted towards men. I’m not committing to reading all of them, but they do all sound well worth it! (The astericks indicate an author who appeared on the list but with a different title. I’ve also included which of my personal ‘categories’ a book falls under for my own future reference; if you’re curious, you can read the details about their meaning.)

  • Inheriting the Revolution by Joyce Appleby* (humanities)
  • De Colores Means All of Us by Elizabeth Martinez (personal nonfiction)
  • Songs My Mother Sang to Me by Patricia Preciado Martin* (humanities)
  • The Road to Whatever by Elliott Currie*(social sciences)
  • A Different Mirror by Ronald Takaki (humanities)
  • Drink Cultura: Chicanismo by José Antonio Burciaga (personal nonfiction)
  • Drown by Junot Díaz (modern)
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin (personal nonfiction)
  • The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue by Manuel Muñoz (imaginative)
  • The Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez (personal nonfiction)
  • Let Their Spirits Dance by Stella Pope Duarte novel
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen (humanities)
  • Loverboys by Ana Castillo (imaginative)
  • The Magic of Blood by Dagoberto Gilb (modern)
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire (social sciences)
  • A Place to Stand by Jimmy Santiago Baca (personal nonfiction)
  • Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol (social sciences)
  • Suffer Smoke by Elena Díaz Björkquist (historical)
  • Zapata’s Disciple by Martín Espada (personal nonfiction)
  • Sister Light, Sister Dark by Jane Yolen* (imaginative)
  • The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea (social sciences)

And if you’re interested in reading a few Mexican-American authors but are overwhelmed by the list, my favourites that I’ve already read include Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros, Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea, and So Far from God by Ana Castillo. Also, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie, who is not a Mexican-American but is a damn good author. ;)

I’ve read quite a few US Latin@ authors in recent years and want to compile a more general list sometime in the future. So feel free to share your favourites in the comments! :D

12 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2012 8:07 am

    Thank you so much for posting this Eva! I’m a Latina with a lot of pride and I’m thankful to my parents for giving me the opportunity to learn about their cultures and to study and regularly speak their languages (Spanish and Portuguese). I’m definitely going to participate in the Read & Resist Tuscon. It’ll give me an excuse to dip into my personal library of Latin@ books. I’ve also been starting a collection of Spanish-language books too to help me improve my Spanish so this is also a great encouragement to pick up one of those books.

  2. February 7, 2012 9:08 am

    Thanks for posting this, Eva! I’d seen/heard of Melissa’s project in passing, but I took a few minutes to look over the website and the list, and it’s amazing. I would be especially interested to read Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldua. A friend of mine in grad school was related to Anzaldua and I’ve read snippets of her work before.

    Thanks for this!

  3. Keryn permalink
    February 7, 2012 9:16 am

    Hi Eva,
    Just wondering: do you mean Tony Judt instead of Brandt? I recently read a review of The Memory Chalet on another site and just did a quick Google search. In both cases Tony Judt is listed as the author.

    • February 7, 2012 9:26 am

      Eek! Yes! Thanks for pointing that out; I’ve fixed it now. :)

  4. February 7, 2012 12:28 pm

    The sole correct measure for literature is literary excellence.

  5. February 7, 2012 5:45 pm

    Thanks for giving us all the heads up on this. I’ve read Savage Inequalities by Kozol and I think it is a book that all should read. Great list!

  6. February 7, 2012 7:05 pm

    Awesome that you’re participating in this! I think I’ll give it a go. I’ve been wanting to read more Fisheries and Rodriguez.

  7. February 7, 2012 7:49 pm

    Thanks for posting about this, Eva. Read & Resist Tuscon is a great idea. Several bloggers are reading A People’s History of the United States and this is a perfect addition to that project if people are interested.

  8. February 7, 2012 7:54 pm

    First off, I am quite shocked that Tony Judt, the author of “Postwar”, could say something as narrow-minded as this! I’ve never read any of his books, but I know that the they try to cover and analyze, quite ambitiously, the most recent history. It always scares me when people who, one would think, are supposed to be open-minded by default, then go and say something as plain stupid as that. Wow.

    I did sign up for Read & Resist and I intent to put on there at least 2 or 3 reviews in the future. There is a lot of books on the list that I’ve had in my wishlist(s), lots of them I already have on my shelves (like the wonderful “A People’s History of the United States”, can’t wait to start reading it!), some of them I’ve already read (“Women Hollering Creek”, “The House on Mango Street”, “My Wicked, Wicked Ways” by Cisneros; “So Far From God” by Castillo, “Drink Cultura!” by Burciaga and of course Anzaldua’s “Borderlands” – might re-read this one though).

    Do I have to add how horrible I find this Tucson affair? And scary, too. Hopefully it is a one-off thing, and hopefully they will come back to their senses at some point. In the meantime, let’s just enjoy this wonderful literature.

    By the way, I do recommend Mexican-American poetry to the poetry lovers too! (Anzaldua, Cisneros, Baca, Villanueva, Cervantes, Zamora, Herrera)

  9. February 7, 2012 10:19 pm

    I’m going to check out that link. Thanks for sharing! Ah, Luis Alberto Urrea. You can never go wrong reading any of his works.

    I’d also recommend Oscar Casares. His Amigoland and Brownsville are excellent. Especially the characters he develops in Amigoland. I was drawn in immediately, and deeply, to their story – the author is that good. I work in a used bookstore and whenever we get one of his books, I always “staff pick” it.


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