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Reading in a Texas Prison


Let’s say you are in prison in Texas. The list of available books for you to read is evidently intended not only to reflect but also to produce racial inequality and violence.

Slater noted that the TDCJ book bans often seem arbitrary. The department has banned many nonfiction books dealing with prison rape, he writes, but does not censor Stephen King’s “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” which contains a scene in which an inmate is sexually assaulted.

Books containing the “N-word” are often targeted by prison censors, Slater writes. This has led to the banning of books by Langston Hughes, Noam Chomsky, Philip Roth, Richard Wright and Salman Rushdie.

But racist manifestos by Adolf Hitler and David Duke have not been banned by the TDCJ.

It’s more than this, and the article notes that the list of banned books seems utterly capricious. You can’t read Bob Dole’s book either. Who knows why. But the fact that you can’t read The Fire Next Time (Baldwin is also banned) but you can read Mein Kampf seems more than a little coincidental.

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