2012-06-07: Open Book Award

June 7, 2012

ASJA Presents Open Book Award to Arizona Group for Its Brave Defense of the Right to Read

The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), the national professional association of independent nonfiction writers, will present Librotraficante with its distinguished Open Book Award.

The award recognizes the courageous and creative actions that Librotraficante, or "Book Trafficker," an Arizona-based organization, has taken in response to a ban on ethnic studies in public schools. The Arizona law, House Bill 2281, has resulted in the removal of books by such authors as Isabel Allende, Junot Diaz, Jonathan Kozol, James Baldwin and many others, even including works by Thoreau and Shakespeare.

"The removal of books from school shelves in Arizona is not an isolated phenomenon," said Claire Safran, chair of ASJA's First Amendment Committee. "There has been an unfortunate rise in the number of book bannings, attacks on academic freedom and other efforts to limit the freedom to read."

Under the leadership of Tony Diaz, a Houston Community College professor, Librotraficante went beyond simple protest to imaginative and effective action. In caravans throughout the southwest, Librotraficante has been holding readings, organizing book clubs, setting up "underground libraries" and distributing copies of the many books that have been exiled from the curriculum of Arizona public schools.

"No history is illegal," as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once warned. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Thus ASJA sees the threat to Mexican-American studies in Arizona as a potential threat to the right to teach or read about the lives and literature of any other group that would-be censors might deem to be out of the mainstream.

ASJA's Open Book Award pays tribute to individuals and/or organizations who have taken courageous action in defense of the freedom to read. It is not given annually but only in those years when there is an appropriate and deserving recipient. Previous winners of this award include: columnist Nat Hentoff, librarian Leo Melrose, the National Coalition Against Censorship, People for the American Way, Viking Penguin (for continuing to publish and sell Salmon Rushie's The Satanic Verses despite lethal threats), the New York Shakespeare Festival, the University of Iowa Press, Senator Christopher Dodd.

The Open Book Award will be presented to Librotraficante during a teach-in they are holding in Phoenix, Arizona from June 20 to 24, 2012.

  • A blank piece of paper is God's way of telling us how hard it is to be God.
    – Sidney Sheldon
  • A critic is a man who knows the way but can't drive the car.
    – Kenneth Tynan
  • A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self–addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.
    – Ring Lardner
  • A young musician plays scales in his room and only bores his family. A beginning writer, on the other hand, sometimes has the misfortune of getting into print.
    – Marguerite Yourcenar
  • All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary – it's just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.
    – Somerset Maugham
  • Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.
    – Christopher Hampton
  • Being a writer is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.
    – Lawrence Kasdan
  • Copy from one, it's plagiarism; copy from two, it's research.
    –Wilson Mizner
  • Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them.
    – Flannery O'Connor
  • I just wrote a book, but don't go out and buy it yet, because I don't think it's finished yet.
    – Lawrence Welk
  • I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
    – Douglas Adams
  • I'm writing a book. I've got the page numbers done.
    – Stephen Wright
  • It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous.
    – Robert Benchley
  • It's a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.
    – Andrew Jackson
  • Most writers can write books faster than publishers can write checks.
    – Richard Curtis
  • No fathers or mothers think their own children ugly; and this self–deceit is yet stronger with respect to the offspring of the mind.
    – Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  • There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
    –Somerset Maugham
  • Writing a novel is like paddling from Boston to London in a bathtub. Sometimes the damn tub sinks. It's a wonder that most of them don't.
    – Stephen King
  • Writing a novel is like spelunking. You kind of create the right path for yourself. But, boy, are there so many points at which you think, absolutely, I'm going down the wrong hole here.
    – Chang–rae Lee
  • Your manuscript is both good and original, but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.
    –Samuel Johnson