Love Literature, Stop Censorship, Buy a Book, Build a Better World

May 24, 2012

Comments, emails, and tweets from Wednesday’s post on Arizona banned books have led to very specific opportunities to address this issue, right now. This is one of the easiest ways to make an important difference ever announced, so I hope you’ll join me in taking part. Here’s the deal:

The Arizona State Government strong-armed the Tuscon Unified School District into shuttering an innovative educational intiative and closeting a broad set of important works of philosophy and literature. The Mexican American Studies Program, according to an independent auditor, encouraged an ethic of peace, improved students’ educational outcomes, and shared the complex, nuanced reality of history and contemporary politics with students.

To protest the program’s closure, a group calling itself librotraficantes (book traffickers) is organizing several community-based libraries throughout the Southwest. The libraries will offer access to the banned literature. They are accepting book donations now.


Here’s how you can help:



  1. Buy yourself a book from the Better World Banned Bookstore. All of these books were recently banned. For more nuance on this, see yesterday’s post.
  2. Read it. Admittedly I’m adding a step here. But this is precisely why I believe this set of books is so important: literature helps us understand the lives and perspectives of others. And when we can do that, we’re better community members and better (small d) democrats. This is not only about Mexican Americans. This is about all of us. James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time is just one of the banned books from the black-white relations literature that continues to have implications for achieving a good multicultural democracy. Each of the books is important and we can all benefit from taking the time to read one more piece of history, work of literature, or statement of philosophy.
  3. Discuss it with friends and neighbors. 
  4. Donate it to a librotraficantes library. This is as easy as dropping a book in the mail (addresses below). They’ve requested that you make a note that you learned about this from the Building a Better World Website.
  5. Please, visit the banned bookstore, buy a book, read the book, discuss it, and ship it to a community library.

Ship books to: 
HOUSTON – Multicultural Education and Counseling Through the Arts (MECA) 
1900 Kane Street, Houston, TX 77007
 Alice Valdez, Founder/Director
SAN ANTONIO – Southwest Workers Union
1414 E. Commerce, San Antonio, TX 78205
Genaro Rendon, Director
ALBUQUERQUE – Los Jardines Institute
803 La Vega Dr. SW, Albuquerque, NM 87105
Sofia Martinez, Program Coordinator
TUCSON – John Valenzuela Youth Center
1550 S 6th Ave., South Tucson, AZ 85713
Gloria Hamelitz, Director

Please re-post, re-tweet, send to friends and family, buy a book, have a great discussion, ship it, and make a difference. Thank you for reading.

P.S. – Obviously, this is a great project for a summer reading circle, a neighborhood book club, or a church or synagogue group. I look forward to hearing about how you make this happen in your communities.

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 and a graduate course on Urban Education for Temple University.

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