Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

February 6, 2018

Writing the Desert, in the Age of Banned Books

On the streets of Sonora, Che.
Photo by Brenda Norrell
The desert has its own songs

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Written in 2012. Published today, Feb. 6, 2018.

TUCSON -- The heat and drought are brutal this summer. But just as the heat releases the seed and the flower blossoms, the heat brings its on gifts and new life. Stumbling around from heatstroke far too many days, with far too many cactus stabs in my arms from yard work, there is the solace of the books.

In Literature and Landscape, Writers of the Southwest, authors share their secrets as to why this glorious dry earth, these fancy sunsets, and this great lightning-streaked sky, inspire. They tell of why the muse visits, along with the hummingbirds of summer, and why the wild monsoon rains make us rush into the raindrops and dance.

Byrd Baylor, border poet, writes of being here, just south of Tucson, in the part of the world where she is at home, with those who speak of sunsets and purple cactus flowers.

Baylor writes, "Of course the desert keeps its secrets hidden and only lets you in on a few of them, but I learn what I can, and that is what I write about. All my books are full of places and people I know. I think of them as my own kind of private love songs to my own part of the world."

Arturo Islas says he loves the desert more than the sea. "Writing is like going out into the desert by yourself."

In this profound birthplace of prose and poetry, there is no better place to celebrate the national outrage over the banning of books here by the Tucson Unified School District.

What a tremendous summer it is, to read these banned books, and what an honor to have met many of these banned authors during my journey as a news reporter, including Native American authors Sherman Alexie, Simon Ortiz, Buffy Sainte Marie, Winona LaDuke, Ofelia Zepeda, Leslie Marmon Silko, Joy Harjo, Rosalie Little Thunder, Rigoberta Menchu, and Chicano author Luis Alberto Urrea.

The struggle, in reality, stems from the toxic spewing of racism, festering within Arizona officials. The Mexican American Studies Department was targeted, because of the agenda of white supremacists in the Arizona government.

But just as cow manure is good for the plants in the garden, so does this racism fuel the resistance.

The desert has its own songs, and long after the book banners have returned to the earth, the rains will come again, the cactus will flower and the poets and writers will sip their prickly pear juice and write again.

Sabine R. Ulibarri writes, "So the land, the river, and the sky flow into my soul and through my arm unto my writings."

Copyright Brenda Norrell


Elias said...

nice reading this ... though I am of the land of the seagull... by the sea... but with love for the desert ... as we say, 'you can ban Chicano books, but they still POP UP!' ... from the far West, with love, The Xican@ Pop-Up Book Movement

Elias said...

Well said ... good reading this ... as we say, "you can ban Chicano Books, but they still POP UP!" .. with love from the far West, the Xican@ Pop-Up Book Movement