My neighbor, Dhara, came to the states from India 20 years ago as a graduate student. She became a U.S. citizen 8 years ago, and her son and mine have grown up together riding their bikes on the sidewalk between our San Francisco apartment buildings.
A couple nights ago at a postcard-writing huddle organized by another neighbor, Dhara told the story of being detained by US immigration agents at the Canadian border for 15 days because she held a PhD in molecular biology, which made her a suspect for terrorism. This is a mother, a woman, a brilliant cancer researcher who has dedicated her career to helping people live longer, who chose to give up her Indian citizenship to become an American.
As we ate cheese and crackers and drank wine and talked about the horrible immigration raids taking place in our country, an angry white man shot two Indian engineers in a bar in Kansas, killing one of them. The 51-year-old veteran allegedly yelled "Get out of my country" as he opened fire.
This is being investigated as a hate crime, and the White House has remained silent. No words of sympathy for the dead man's widow, no statement decrying hate speech or condemning ANY form of violence against our neighbors, like the Bible teaches.
My son and Dhara's son were born in the same city, they live on the same street, and they watch the same cartoons. But they don't look alike. Dhara's son is Indian. My son is white. And they face a very different future in this country if ALL OF US do not stand up and fight for tolerance, and civil liberties, and justice.
If you're not speaking out and standing up for our constitution and the principles this country was built on, then you must accept responsibility for the families being torn apart by this administration's orders, and the violence perpetrated by angry white men.
As for us, we will not be silent.
We founded Silent Book Club to create a space for readers to connect with each other through a shared love of books. Once a month in cities around the world, introverts find sanctuary in a room full of kindred spirits reading quietly together in public. We did not set out to be a political group, but as Roxane Gay powerfully declared, "today, tomorrow and for the foreseeable future, everything we do is political—as readers, as writers, as booksellers, as people." More than ever, we believe in creating safe spaces for people to take refuge in books. Self-care is critical and all are welcome at Silent Book Club. But we have to do more. We are readers and activists.
Today we are proud to launch We Will Not Be Silent, a campaign to help people speak up and make their voices heard.
Order your Activist Tool Kit and receive 10 postcards designed by independent artists with instructions on how to reach your representatives in Washington. The set includes messaging templates for issues including civil liberties, immigration, freedom of information, healthcare reform, and women's rights.
All proceeds will benefit non-profit organizations fighting for our first amendment rights, including ProPublica, the Southern Poverty Law Center, The Project on Government Oversight, and the Freedom of the Press Foundation.Continue reading
When I saw this post from Rainbow Rowell asking readers to help defend her book, Eleanor & Park, from censorship, I was surprised. My first reaction was, "Wait, they still do that?" And during Banned Books Week, of all times? Of course this was naive, and once I thought more about it I realized that when I think about banned books, I always frame it historically in my mind. Catcher in the Rye, Brave New World, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple, Go Ask Alice—these titles always appear on lists of banned books, and somehow that made it easy for me to dismiss this kind of censorship as a thing of the past.
When I stop to think about it, though, I can remember religious groups being up in arms about Harry Potter because MAGIC, and parents getting riled up about John Green because OMG TEENS AND SEX. I rolled my eyes over the outrage surrounding Twilight because THE OCCULT. Really? We're worried about our kids becoming sparkly vampires? Come on, they're joking, right?
I owe librarians and authors an apology. I haven't been taking them seriously enough in their fight to protect our right to read. I've spent most of my career making books and getting them into the hands of as many readers as possible. Books are my passion. It's more than what I DO, it's who I am. Until today, Banned Books Week for me has been an endcap at a bookstore, a poster at my library, and a hashtag on Twitter. I didn't realize there was anything I could—or should—do about it.
But I can, and you can, too. We can email the National Coalition on Censorship and help them defend Eleanor & Park, and every other book on the list. They have an email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. They use testimonials from readers to mount their defense of challenged books. If there's ever been a time to stand up for diversity, and tolerance, and minority voices, it is now. I encourage you to read Rainbow Rowell's post. It opened my eyes and made me realize that I am accountable for my privilege to read.