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Cover art by Leslie Kell






Editor's Note

James R. Adair

What do the Bible, The Diary of Anne Frank, To Kill a Mockingbird, Maus, The Bluest Eye, The Handmaid’s Tale, Of Mice and Men, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The 1619 Project have in common? If you guessed that they’ve all been banned from schools or libraries, you’re right.

Hours after Salman Rushdie was attacked on stage on August 12 just before he was scheduled to speak, author Chris Helm posted on Twitter, “The distance between banning books you disagree with and attacking those who write them is way shorter than you think.” Banning books is itself an attack, maybe not with a knife or a gun, but with a weapon called censorship. Those who ban books—whether out of fear, hatred, prejudice, or misunderstanding—are engaged in an assault on ideas, the people who have them, and the people who want to learn about them. Books are powerful. If they weren’t, no one would oppose them. They sometimes entertain, sometimes inform, sometimes inspire, and yes, sometimes challenge other people’s points of view. History is replete with examples of people trying (sometimes successfully) to quash alternate viewpoints, whether they be religious, political, or philosophical. Book banning is one of the commonly used tools to try to accomplish that goal. In this issue of Voices de la Luna, as Banned Books Week approaches (Sep 18-24), we hear from people who oppose censorship and are fighting to overcome it.

Leading the charge in the Texas Hill Country is our featured interviewee, Christine Granados, who formed a group called The People for Public Education of Fredericksburg, which opposes the banning of books in the Fredericksburg High School library. She discusses the events that led to her forming the group and reports on her ongoing efforts. Our featured poet, 2022 Texas Poet Laureate Lupe Méndez, shares a poem about the power of books, and another that pays tribute to a young man gunned down in Chicago by a police officer, one in a long string of such incidents. He also provides us with his thoughts on banning books (spoiler alert: he’s opposed to it). We are also honored to have a contribution from Tony Diaz, the man who coined the term librotraficante several years ago when he fought against censorship in Arizona and transported banned books into the state. He continues that effort and works to “cultivate community cultural capital.”

Starting with this issue, we are putting more of an emphasis on the Arts part of our subtitle, devoting an extra page to our Spotlight Artist, which allows us to feature larger images of their work. We also allot additional pages dedicated entirely to original art.

As promised in the May issue, we share the poems of the winners of our Hitch Your Wagon to the Stars Poetry Contest, both adults and youth. As always, we also offer other poems and prose from our talented contributors. Sip coffee in a Vienna coffee house on the Ringstrasse. Learn how to be scared of a pandemic (a lot more on this in our next issue!). Take a harrowing journey from Mexico to Arizona with a 9-year-old boy. Above all, think about the books that have shaped your life, lifted you up when you were down, inspired you to attempt great things in your life. And make sure that others have the same chance.


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Themes for future issues
November 2022: Pandemic, Two Years In
February 2023: Writing Love

Current Voices


Disinvitation to the Dance

Bett Butler

“If American women would increase their voting turnout by ten percent, I think we would see an end to all of the budget cuts in programs benefiting women and children.” —Coretta Scott King In heels that pinch and blister, we dance the waltz of human rights: one step forward, two steps back. In a cotillion rigged against us, where the many are controlled and exploited for the convenience of the few, we dance. We dance in fields and factories, our bodies worn and sore, denied our labor’s just reward. We dance in offices and boardrooms, voices ignored, contributions overlooked, ideas disregarded, disdained, discarded. We dance in the echo chambers and algorithms of propaganda and misinformation, of social media that demands a face filtered and photoshopped and a body impossible to attain, so that influencers and merchants of happiness can sell us one more product promising perfection. We dance in the streets and all too often bear the blame and shame for violence against us, because we dress a certain way or have too much to drink or simply walk alone. We dance in tabernacles where some would wield the cudgel of religion to deny us agency of our bodies, our wombs; of who and what we are and whom we love; of the names we answer to and how we move in this world. We dance in courtrooms and in the halls of congress where the fetus is venerated; but once born, left to languish in poverty, to struggle in schools starved for funding, stripped of art and music, destined to join the perpetual parade of cheap labor We dance at the border, fleeing war and famine, denigrated, denied entry for the color of our skin, sending our children across alone, just so they might have a chance to survive. We dance to the tune of moguls of murder manufacturing machines that maim and kill, lubricating legislators, plying pundits with hard cash and twisted logic to justify selling any sick, disordered soul the weapons that slaughter our children in their classrooms. We are weary. We are grieving, and we hold inside a smoldering anger, tinder of a just and righteous flame. Come. Stand beside me, and we'll shed these dancing shoes that have squeezed and bound our feet for so long. We’ll trade them in for trainers and we’ll walk, and then we’ll run down this rugged road despite the stones and threats and hurdles thrown our way. We’ll trade them in for boots, and we’ll gather and we’ll march with our mothers and our sisters and our daughters and our friends. We’ll walk, we’ll run, we’ll march to the one place our voices will be heard in the most real and powerful way. We’ll walk, we’ll run, we’ll march to the voting booth. And we'll let no one stop us.




Self Portrait #1

Kaldric Dow




What the Books Did for Me: What I Did for the Books

Del Rio Madrigal

Some of us are dangerous. We bite. We bark. We know how to pronounce the word “no” in more than one language.


I almost killed myself over what an American girl feels between the ages 14 to 18. Certain thoughts still linger some days.


I wasn’t alone. But I wasn’t suffering through the gentle gaze of community. There was a blur of classes. There was a school of chances.


I am of the smiley ones. I am healed. But back then, I could have sworn I wouldn’t be alive right now, in my twenties, writing a piece about Adam Silvera,


Elizabeth Acevedo, Tiffany D. Jackson, Stephen Chbosky, Malinda Lo. I was found on the ground with books in my arms.


I was found outside a library with books in my arms. I ruined the books. I clawed at them, ripped them apart,


shoved them into walls, ate the pages, crumbled the spines, let my fingers knead through the wet stains


as I cried. And there, I was real. I was real because the narratives were mine for the taking.


Everybody sees me, one way or another. (I, too, have wished away the past and have walked away from everything


I’ve ever known.) I am wrong.


I am not here, writing about those authors who told me to step into reading nooks and denounce my fears. (I was too young to know all this.)


I was too old to thank the authors for their subtle kindness). I am here, writing about the readers. We also know the language for “yes.”




Reflection in the Bluest Eye

Donald Guadagni




Thoughts on My Poems and on Banning Books

Lupe Méndez

What to say about these poems? These are the latest notions, what has been bubbling up in my head. One poem is all the routine fear during the pandemic, the lockdown feeling enacted. Yes, we looked for parks with barely any kids in them. Yes, I am traumatized from all the early grocery shopping at the early part of the pandemic—all the people in H-E-B with no masks.

Another poem is about a young man, a kid, living and dying in the grey spaces—I read the statement from the lawyer reppin’ the cop—and this is what stood out. Adam is missed I am sure; maybe this poem can call his spirit a bit, remind him he is not forgotten.

The last poem I will speak about is one of bliss—I finally wrote a poem aimed at kids! I was awarded a residency by O’Miami in Miami, FL, the Writer’s Room at the Betsy. As part of the residency, I had the distinct pleasure of reading poetry and taking part in a Q&A with kids at a local Miami school. The poem I wrote here was for them. The questions were great and the kids were brilliant—it was exactly what I needed: a reminder of what poetry can do….

As to the notion of banning books and banning history—let Texas politicians and ignorant parents keep trying. It won’t work. As a 20+ year educator, activist, and poet, I can tell you that education is about resilience and compassion. The moment you tell a kid they can’t read a book, they flock to the books. Parents can best help their kids by READING and TALKING about the books their kids are interested in. There is nothing in a book that is any more immoral or uncomfortable than anything on cable TV. I don’t see politicians asking for the removal of National Geographic or the History channel. I don’t see them writing laws to censor soap operas or talk shows. It’s all theatrics. Education will survive. Our history is being told now and no one will stop that.

If you are an educator reading this—thank you for sticking around. The assault on our profession is real, but so is your work. So are the connections you build with our youth. Please keep pushing. And yes, there will come a time where you will have to make that choice between “keeping the job” and telling the truth. Find your path and know it will lead to your legacy. This is how knowledge-building works. This is how we educate: we model, we share, we guide.