Parental complaints concerning an erotic excerpt in Cuban-American author Cristina García’s critically-acclaimed novel “Dreaming in Cuban” has prompted an Arizona school district to ban the book from classrooms this week, the Associated Press reports.
The novel, which follows the bond between three generations of women during the Cuban Revolution, was taken out of the curriculum by Sierra Vista school administrators after a mother complained her son’s 10th-grade English classroom had been asked to read sexually explicit passages aloud.
A complaint by an unnamed parent, detailing the same scenario, was e-mailed to the Education Action Group Foundation website earlier this week. The non-profit organization posted the content of the e-mail as well as the excerpt and picture of the sexually explicit passage the parent was citing.
Subject: Porn at Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Arizona
Below is a picture and an excerpt out of the book Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia.
This is a 10th grade literature book that was used in my son’s class at Buena High School in Sierra Vista, Arizona. The whole class read this book out loud during class. Everyone in the class had a copy of this book.
This book was recommended by Common Core Curriculum.
The following excerpt is taken from page 80:
“Hugo and Felicia stripped in their room, dissolving easily into one another, and made love against the whitewashed walls. Hugo bit Felicia’s breast and left purplish bands of bruises on her upper thighs. He knelt before her in the tub and massaged black Spanish soap between her legs. He entered her repeatedly from behind.
“Felicia learned what pleased him. She tied his arms above his head with their underclothing and slapping him sharply when he asked.
“‘You’re my bitch,’” Hugo said, groaning.
“In the morning he left, promising to return in the summer.”
In an article concerning the parent’s complaint, The Daily Caller referred to the literary novel as “porn.” Barbara Hansen, a former Sierra Vista elementary school teacher, echoed the sentiment on Tuesday when she told the school board the book seemed like “child pornography,” the AP reports.
“Dreaming in Cuban” has received critical acclaim since its publication in 1992 and was also a finalist for the National Book Award. In response to the controversy, the Cuban-born novelist said these types of complaints had never occurred before and should not be a reason to deprive students from a broader cultural experience.
“Many works, not just mine, are misinterpreted or misguidedly banned because of the limitations and short-sightedness of a few,” García told the Associated Press, adding that she’s willing to visit the school district to clear up concerns.
Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel “Beloved” once faced similar challenges after parents complained its sexual content and violence made it unsuitable for classrooms. The book is widely read in high schools today and is featured at The Library of Congress in an exhibit titled “Books That Shaped America.”
Sierra Vista Superintendent Kriss Hagerl said the district was not aware of the content in “Dreaming In Cuban” and in the future would ask parents for consent concerning literary works with sensitive material.
It's not the first time a school in the state of Arizona has made headlines for banishing a Hispanic-authored book from classrooms.
The Arizona legislature voted in 2010 to ban courses that advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government, foster racial resentment or promote ethnic solidarity. The legislation specifically targeted a controversial Mexican American Studies curriculum in Tucson that conservative lawmakers accused of politicizing the students. Independent research found the courses raised student achievement and a state-commissioned audit recommended expanding the classes.
When Tucson Unified School District formally suspended the classes in January of 2011, administrators plucked seven titles -- almost all of them by Latino authors -- from classrooms, citing their involvement in litigation. The books remain prohibited from instruction in Tucson.
Earlier on HuffPost:
Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, by Rodolfo Acuña
The most successful book written by professor Rodolfo Acuña, "Occupied America" represents all that Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne opposed in the Mexican-American Studies program when he launched the attack against it. Horne viewed the curriculum as separatist and ethnically divisive. HB 2281, the law used to <a href="http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/bills/hb2281s.pdf " target="_hplink">ban TUSD's Mexican American Studies</a> program, prohibits courses that "promote the overthrow of the United States government" or "are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group." "These people think you're a separatist if you want to teach and include people," <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jan/14/local/la-me-0114-tobar-20110114" target="_hplink">Acuña told the <em>Los Angeles Times</em></a> in 2011. "I don't want to be part of Mexico ... That's a stupid thing to argue."
500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, compiled by Elizabeth Martinez
This compilation tells the story of Chicano history from before the European conquest of North America, through colonization and into the present day. The book describes the Southwest as "Occupied America" -- a term that Arizona conservatives often view as unjust and disparaging. Actor Edward James Olmos felt differently: "If young people read this book, they will be strong and proud in new ways," he said on the dust jacket to the 1990 edition. "It's a real education, in the true sense of that word."
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
This seminal work by Brazilian education professor Paulo Freire argued that students learn best when treated as equals and engaged on their own terms. Freire argues against the "banking model" of education, in which teachers treat students as passive recipients of knowledge. His work is studied by education specialists throughout the hemisphere. In a 2012 interview, <a href="http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2012/04/19/neither-banned-nor-allowed-mexican-american-studies-in-limbo-in-arizona/" target="_hplink">Arizona Superintendent of Education John Huppenthal </a> explained why he viewed the book as problematic: <blockquote>The title of Paulo Freire's book is 'Pedagogy of the Oppressed,' and so the question is, who is the oppressed? And as we looked at what was going on in the classroom and looked at what was in the materials, we saw they were putting together a Marxian model in the classroom in which the oppressed are the Hispanic students and the oppressors are the white Caucasian power structure. We came to the conclusion that it wasn't O.K. to be preaching that model in the classroom.</blockquote>
Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, by Bill Bigelow
A collection of essays, interviews, lesson plans and other materials, <em>Rethinking Columbus</em> aims to change the way students understand the first interactions between the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Europeans. One contributing author, <a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/01/13/whos_afraid_of_the_tempest/" target="_hplink">Tucson's own Leslie Silko</a>, boasts a Native Writers' Circle of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award and a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.
Critical Race Theory, by Richard Delgado
The academic field of <a href="http://spacrs.wordpress.com/what-is-critical-race-theory/" target="_hplink">critical race theory challenges</a> traditional ways of looking at race and racism. The field's theoreticians argue that supposedly neutral concepts and institutions, like meritocracy or the legal system, mask systemic inequality and institutionalized racism. Richard Delgado's books is one of the discipline's classics. Some conservatives <a href="http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/03/11/What Is Critical Race Theory" target="_hplink">view critical race theory as "dangerous"</a> because some of its proponents view the Constitution and the fabric of American democracy as imbued with racism. During the course of several interviews in 2012, Julio Cammarota, a professor of Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona, "You can see the problem, can't you? One side doesn't want to talk about race, the other side wants to talk about race all the time."
Message to Aztlán: Selected Writings of Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzalez
The term "Aztlán" refers to the mythic homeland of the Nahua of Central Mexico. Intellectuals of the Chicano movement adopted the term to describe the southwestern United States. Mexican-American Studies teachers at Tucson Unified School District taught those concepts with books like this one, by Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzalez, a writer and political activist who helped found the Chicano Movement in the 1960s.
Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement, by Arturo Rosales
This well-regarded study of the Chicano movement serves as a companion to the 1996 PBS documentary of the same name.