With Arizona being the big controversy these days, it was only fitting that the 7th Annual San Diego City College International Book Fair 2012 take place during the National Banned Books week, so as to adopt that theme of unjustifiable bannings. While the event spanned the whole week, with daily readings, the bulk of the fair was on Saturday, October 6, at City College’s Saville Theatre. The event lasted from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., giving students plenty of time to drop by. The event was smaller than I anticipated, comprised of a few stands and a snack vendor, and the turnout was not as big as I imagined it would be, but I daresay the event was a success.
Rudy Acuña (on the left), whose books were banned in Arizona, was the guest speaker for the 1-hour slot between 1:30-2:30 p.m. He was an interesting fellow; an older generation Mexican-American who had a lot to share about his view of not just the immigration situation in Arizona, but of our generation of Mexican-Americans in general. As can be expected of any older gentleman, Acuña considers this generation as the twitter generation; we young people are impersonal and don’t appreciate the art of writing. It seemed contradictory to me that he stated that our generation doesn’t take advantage of the written word yet went on to say that even graffiti from our delinquents can have meaning. I couldn’t really grasp what he was aiming at as his speech was all over the place. Even so, Acuña lamented the fact that “the lack of education leaves fantastic scars,” referring to the fact that Mexican-Americans, and all youth really, are being hurt by the censorship that is happening in Arizona.
During the Q&A section, Acuña answered an attendee question about our situation today in comparison with the Japanese-Americans of the WWII era by pointing to the fact that Mexican-American immigrants are suffering almost an equivalent of the concentration camps we held in America. If Hitler had won the war, he would have pointed to that fact just like we do about Germany’s concentration camp. He also mentioned that while 1st generation Americans are culturally foreign, by the 3rd generation, most American families have mostly cut ties with their ancestral culture and are more integrated with American culture. This is an interesting claim that, while disputable to degrees, is easy to see how we can lose our heritage over time as we adopt the new identity of “American,” which incidentally is the theme of many books being banned in Arizona.
Following Acuña, Matt de la Peña, author of Mexican White Boy, spent his hour reinforcing this notion. A younger writer, Matt got some laughs from the crowd by admitting that he had always secretly wanted to be banned though was surprised by the reason of the ban. He always imagined, he stated, that his cursing or sexual scenes (something his editors bugged him to bring down a notch) would be the reason he would get banned in some uptight, upper-class private schools. Yet when he was banned in Arizona for being anti-Caucasian, he expressed concern that whoever made that decision didn’t bother to actually read his book Mexican White Boy, and yet only went by the cover. This is not surprising, seeing the ignorance in Arizona’s justifications in their campaign against immigrants.
While the readings had some dry areas that made it difficult to stay engaged, they were, overall, pretty well done and fun to sit through. The selection of authors was well-balanced and appropriate for National Banned Books week, the seating was nice and comfy, and having a book signing is always a good thing.
Editor: Eduardo Montes de Oca