Tag: Texas

Book Censorship

‘Where’s Waldo’ Among 15,000 Books Banned From Texas Prisons

If you are one of the more than 140,000 incarcerated people serving time in a Texas state prison, there are 15,000 books to which you are not allowed access, according to Paul Wright of the Human Rights Defense Center. This list is said to be growing exponentially, and once a book goes on it, it never comes off. Book banning has been exercised by authorities to prevent inmates from gaining access to certain information that they deem inflammatory or that they dislike, for decades. 


A Prisoner Browses the Bookshelf In a Texas Prison

Image Via chron.com


Some of the bizarre items on the list include Freakanomics, a collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets and a collection of Leonardo DaVinci’s sketches, which are banned due to sexual content. Also included are novels by Langston Hughes, Noam Chomsky, Philip Roth and Salman Rushdie for their use of the “n-word”. Dante’s Inferno and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple are also forbidden.


But the most recently published book to be banned is Dan Slater’s Wolf Boys:Two American Teenagers and Mexico’s Most Dangerous Drug Cartel, the story of two Texan boys who become assassins for the infamous Zetas Drug Cartel, because of the details provided inside that describe the correct packing of narcotics into a vehicle for smuggling purposes, content that breeds the idea of ‘illegal scheming’. This book is non-fiction. Both teenagers are currently housed in Texas prisons.


An annual event called Banned Books Week, celebrating the freedom to read and literature that has been targeted by censors, brought this news to light. You might wonder who is in charge of making these decisions and hand selecting these books. According to Paul Wright who is also an editor of Prison Legal News which has been fighting censorship behind bars for over 25 years: 

In Texas, as in most states the judge and jury on a book’s fate is typically an anonymous mailroom clerk, who often don’t have high school diplomas. The bureaucratic system rubber stamps it from there.

Wright says federal prisons have even banned President Obama’s books. This paranoia stems from the inherent need to extinguish uncooperative behavior, which ‘apparently’ kicks off whilst reading the biographies of black leaders or about the inequities of our justice system.



Image Via SFGate.com


Jason Clark, a spokesman for the Texas prison system, said Slater’s book was banned because it violates the department’s rules about books that contain information regarding criminal schemes. It was banned from all Texas state prisoners before it was even published last month? It may be grim and violent, but it is a detailed and thoughtful look at American society and the war on drugs. Censoring books such as this strips an inmate of their constitutional rights and there have been countless lawsuits involving prison guards and inmates who were denied access to education.


Deborah Caldwell Stone, deputy director of the American Language Association’s office for Intellectual Freedom insists that “prisoners who read tend to behave better and rehabilitate sooner but prison officials care only about maintaining power and control. There is probably a new story every day like this [the banning of Wolf Boy.]


Wolf Boy

Image Via Audio Book Store


It’s not hard to see why certain books could be banned — books about lock picking or bomb making, for example. But when you’re not allowed to read books by Bob Dole, Harriet Beecher Stowe or Sojourner Truth, but you’re more than welcome to dig into Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf or David Duke’s My Awakening, questions arise.


“Texas is less rational than other states,” says Michelle Dillon, program coordinator of the Seattle-based non-profit Books to Prisoners. Although it’s a national problem, it is particularly bad in more conservative states in the south. 


You can get involved in forwarding books you no longer have use for to prisons all over the country through such charities as; NYC Books Through Bars. A full list of Book donating services is also available here for state specific charities.


Featured Image Via The Odyssey Online

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Talks Harvey Instead of Book Release on CNN


Rather than promote his latest book, Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution, Bernie spent most of his airtime on CBS This Morning stressing the importance of standing together as a nation, especially during this time of crisis in Houston and throughout the Gulf Coast. 


Bernie Sanders

Image Courtesy of CNN


“People don’t appreciate, unless you’re there, talking to the folks that have been impacted, what it means to lose the home that you lived in your whole life, that you lived in the day before. How are you going to rebuild it? Are you going to rebuild it? Where do you go?”


Sanders understands the struggle the citizens and Senators of Texas are experiencing; Hurricane Irene devastated Vermont in 2011, with damages totaling $730 million after 11 inches of rain. Houston has reported between 40 and 50 inches with more still to come.


“Look, it’s hard. Put yourself in the place of the Governor, preparing documentation. It has to be done efficiently, it has to be done rapidly. Now, right now, the immediate task is to make sure that we save lives, we protect people, that there are emergency shelters. The day after, that’s when we think about how to rebuild Houston. When you’re talking about bridges and roads and homes and people suffering, we have got to stand with the people.”


Released this morning and already a #1 Best Seller on Amazon, Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution is a political guide and call to arms for young adults in today’s America, regardless of political affiliation. 


Cover, Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution

Image Courtesy of Amazon


“Millions and millions of people are giving up on our democratic institutions,” he said. “They don’t vote, they don’t get involved, they don’t know how to get involved. And what I think we need as a nation is for tens of millions of people — young people, working people, people who historically have not been involved in the political struggle — to get involved.” 


Sanders is positive about the optimism within this generation and generations to come. “I have seen these young people stand together, it’s a beautiful generation of young people, and what we want to do is see them get involved in the political process. This book provides the tools to do that.” 


We don’t know what the future holds for us, but Sanders is confident the current American system needs reform “beyond the stagnant agendas of Democrat and Republican politicians to build an equitable future for all Americans – especially the younger generation that will inherit the consequences.”


Bernie Sanders Guide to Political Revolution is the map you need to understand and navigate the United States’ current system of policy and government so you can affect change that reflects your values, whatever they may be.


Featured Image Courtesy of MSNBC

A young Hurricane Harvey Book Club Reader

Virtual Book Club Formed In Wake Of Hurricane Harvey


As Hurricane Harvey continues to put Houston and much of the Gulf Coast through the wringer, one woman is taking advantage of social media to bring solace to children fleeing the storm.


harvey book club reader

Image Courtesy of USA Today


Kathryn Butler Mills, a teacher from Columbus, Texas, was heartbroken at the sight of children sequestered away in bathrooms, pantries, and staircases while tornado warnings were in effect. “A reporter on our local news station said for all of us to remember that even when kids are putting on an brave face, they might still be scared on the inside,” she said.


harvey destruction

Image Courtesy of USA Today


In order to bring them a much needed distraction, Mills created the public Facebook group “Hurricane Harvey Book Club” Sunday afternoon. As of Tuesday, the group is 1,600 members and growing.


From their homes or temporary shelters, volunteer readers of all ages set up a camera, crack open a book, and read. Picture books appear to be the most popular genre as of late. 

Featured image courtesy of WUSA9.com.

Sarah Dessen and Once and for All cover

Sarah Dessen Brings Light To Hurricane Victims

The South stands strong. And so does the world of books.


Hurricane Harvey

Image Courtesy of CNN


With Hurricane Harvey hitting this past week, many Texans have been struggling to survive. Thousands are evacuating and they’re lucky to be making it out with their lives, let alone their belongings. Harvey is the first hurricane to hit landfall in 12 years, and things are getting serious. Fast.


Twitter has become the hub for sending thoughts, prayers, and generous donations to those who are now struggling and homeless. Everyone is expressing their sorrow for the profound devastation, including New York Times best selling author Sarah Dessen.


The North Carolina mother and YA fiction writer has recently taken to Twitter to send her love to effected Texans. She encouraged her followers to donate what they can, from money to diapers. She even tweeted an update from her friends at a local bookshop in West Houston. Click below to see their heartfelt thanks.





Unfortunately, due to Blue Willow’s location, they’ll undoubtedly experience some flooding and destruction. 


Blue Willow Bookshop

Image Courtesy of Michael Scott


The bookshop first opened its doors in 1996 and has become a cozy, familiar nook for West Houston natives and visitors alike. They offer book lovers a variety of read-alouds, signings, book clubs, and even British-inspired tea time. Who would want to lose a place like that?!  


With Dessen’s recent book release for her novel ‘Once and for All, there is no doubt her following will continue to grow. From tweets to donations, any awareness could help save places like Blue Willow Bookshop and bring relief to the people of Texas.



Feature Image Courtesy of Bustle and Goodreads