Each year Banned Book Week adopts a theme to take a closer look at certain banned and challenged books. This year the theme is “Young Adult Books,” and on the list of Frequently Challenged of Banned YA Fiction for 2014-2015 is The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Ciserno.
The House on Mango Street, is a collection of short stories, beautifully written, about Esparanza, a girl growing up in Chicago, finding her place, learning about herself, and writing about the neighborhood in which she lives.
I originally read this book in a class in college, and then re-read it this year, again amazed by the power of the poetic language. As is the case with oh-so-many banned and challenged books, I am surprised to find this one on the list.
In 2010 Arizona House Bill 2281 forced the cancellation of a Mexican American studies program in the Tuscon Unified School District. This included the removal of a number of books from the classroom and curriculum, including The House on Mango Street.
Their strength is secret. They send ferocious roots beneath the ground. They grow up and they grown down and grab the earth between their hairy toes and bite the sky with violent teeth and never quit their anger. This is now they keep…. Four who grew despite concrete. Four who reach and do not forget to reach. Four whose only reason is to be and be.
-The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Ciserno. p. 74-75
The information around this entire issue in Arizona is a bit murky for me to go into detail on in a short post, but I’ve included some links to a few articles I’ve found on the matter at the bottom of the post. What’s most important, to me, is the reminder that Banning Books is something that is happening all the time – for a whole variety of reasons – and it’s important we keep ourselves aware of what is going on around us. This is not something that happened “a while ago,” attempts to overturn this law were being brought to court in January of this year.
Brought to mind is the We Need Diverse Books campaign – many of those books that are being banned and challenged are books that reflect diverse populations, something there are already precious few books about.
I loved The House On Mango Street – it’s one of the books that survived the “can I replace this with an ebook?” cut when I moved across country. A book well worth reading for everyone, and definitely a worth addition to a school curriculum.
And now, 2017, there here is an update about the case in Arizona!