October 6, 2022

Authors of banned books should keep writing, says poet Martín Espada

Martín Espada, recipient of the 2021 National Book Prize for Poetry whose past works have been the target of conservative outrage, urges authors of recently banned books to continue.

The big picture: The Brooklyn-born poet is one of the few Latinos to have won the award.

Details: Espada addresses the daily lives of people struggling with poverty, migration, climate change and loneliness in her latest collection, “Floats: Poems”

  • Its title poem, “Floaters,” is based on the infamous 2019 photograph of migrants Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his infant daughter, Valeria, who were found dead in the Rio Grande.
  • “Floaters” is a term used by some members of the Border Patrol to describe drowned migrants.

What they say : “The same insidious forms of racism that motivated me to speak out as a poet over 30 years ago…are still there,” Espada told Axios.

  • “It’s important for us not to let the oppressors appropriate the language and take it from the rest of us… The word floaters is obviously an example of that.”

Yes, but: While Espada says he is encouraged by racial progress and more Latino writers are published, obstacles remain and actions such as book bans are attempts to reverse the gains.

  • “There’s still a movement going on to get books off the shelves… But we still find a way to read them. Bans don’t work.”

The American Library Association said it tracked 330 book challenges alone from September to November 2021, showing a massive increase in book ban attempts.

  • In 2020, amid the novel pandemic and distance learning, he cited only 156 challenges for library, school and university materials and services.
  • Books by Elizabeth Acevedo, Alire Sáenz, and other Latino and Latino authors have landed on banned book lists tracked by the American Library Association.

Rollback: Espada’s 1998 collection of essays, “The Disciple of Zapata,” was the target of book bans in Texas and Arizona.

  • Conservative critics took issue with his essays on censorship, Latinos struggling with poverty and language.
  • At a reading in Tucson, Arizona, a bomb threat forced Espada and his audience into the parking lot while police scanned the bookstore.

Do not forget : Sword started as a bilingual education attorney in the Boston area before becoming a lawyer.

  • The writer of the post-Nuyorican Poets Cafe movement was influenced by Puerto Rican writers before him such as Sandra María Esteves, Nicholasa Mohr, and Jack Agüeros.

Further reading: To listen Martín Espada has read “Latin Night at the Pawn Shop” by Russell Contreras History of the Boston Globe 2007 on the poet.

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