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Book News: Arizona Lifts Ban On 7 Mexican-American Studies Books

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • The Tucson Unified School District is reinstating seven books banned after a Mexican-American Studies program was outlawed in Arizona. In 2010, a judge ruled that the program was illegal under a law banning classes that "promote resentment toward a race or class of people." The books include Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales, Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado and 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures edited by Elizabeth Martinez. The Arizona Daily Star reports that the governing board voted 3-2 to reinstate the books as "supplementary materials." Meanwhile, Arizona's Department of Education responded in a statement to News 4 Tucson: "Given the prior misuse of the approved texts in TUSD classrooms, the Arizona Department of Education is concerned whether the governing board's actions indicate an attempt to return to practices found to have violated Arizona's statutes in 2011."
  • Iranian Culture Minister Ali Jannati said this week that Iran may reconsider its restrictions on certain books that have been banned by censors, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). Jannati was quoted as saying: "Those books subjected to censorship or denied permission to be published in the past will be reviewed again." He told the Iranian daily Ahram that "I think if the Koran was not a divine revelation, when it was handed to the book supervisory board, they would say some words did not comply with public chastity and would deny it permission for publication."
  • Jonathan Franzen speaks to Manjula Martin about writing, social media and making money during an interview in the brand new magazine Scratch: "I think the literary novelist who makes money is like a fish in a tweed suit. Flannery O'Connor talks about the fiction writer's concern being 'a poverty fundamental to mankind.' You lose touch with that impoverishment at your own risk."
  • Earlier this week, writer Gregg Barrios complained in a Texas Observer op-ed that in an act of "egregious marginalization," the Texas Book Festival "features only 15 Latina and Latino writers out of 230 invited writers." In another op-ed, the festival's literary director, Steph Opitz, agreed with Barrios, writing, "I, too, am disappointed that there is not more diversity in this year's line-up" and asking to meet with him to hear his suggestions for next year.
  • J.J. Abrams named his favorite writers in a New York Times interview: "Mark Twain for his amazing use of language and humor, and H. G. Wells for his wild, prescient imagination. I want to say Salinger, too, but all this is making me sound like I'm still in junior high. I have a great affection for the writing of Graham Greene and am amazed by the soul and poetry of Colum McCann. And I can't tell which is more incredible: how Stephen King can grab you by the throat in whatever damn genre he's writing in, or that as soon as you've finished his latest novel, he's published another one. His skill and prolificacy is otherworldly. Like, maybe literally."
  • The New York Times has begun a series of profiles of small poetry presses. Why? Because it says that "many smart people say they're panic-stricken by poetry, as if it were an iambic migraine to be ducked. One purpose of these occasional profiles in poetry is to educate readers who might be tempted by the art, but who aren't sure where to start. We mean to gradually create a guide to the vast archipelago of independent-press poetry publishing." In this installment, Michael Wiegers of Copper Canyon Press explains what he look for in a manuscript: "I look for the intentional, the weird and the unexpected that makes a voice singular."
  • Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.
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