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The Banned Books Michigan Prisoners Aren’t Allowed to Read

Marquette Branch Prison, Michigan/Image: CC/Flickr

Editor's Note:

Banned books are still a thing, you guys! This, Kurt Andersen’s reflections on crazy America, and more – all in today’s Daily Blunt.

In the interest of banning literature that “promotes insurrection” or “advocates racial supremacy,” the Michigan Department of Correction has cut a wide swath through important black literature, such as Black Skin, White Masks, by post-colonial theorist Frantz Fanon. “The person who made that claim hasn’t read the book, quite simply,” comments Emerson professor Nigel Gibson, who has written four books about Fanon. You can read the entire list of banned materials (as well as the justifications banning them) right here. Also on the list are philosopher Sun Tzu and a whole lotta Dungeons and Dragons manuals.

Speaking of how America lost its mind, Kurt Andersen weighs in via The Atlantic with some disturbing truths about the formation of our national identity, and how it became rooted squarely in delusion. He opens with a quote by Daniel J. Boorstin: “We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so ‘realistic’ that they can live in them.” As for how you go about mixing America’s particular cocktail of crazy, here’s Andersen’s recipe: “Mix epic individualism with extreme religion; mix show business with everything else; let all that ferment for a few centuries; then run it through the anything-goes ’60s and the internet age.” Andersen dives into all things American and crazy in his latest book, Fantasyland, coming September 5.

Meanwhile, Suzy Hansen’s new book, Notes on a Foreign Country, walks us through the author’s first-person experience of being slowly stripped of American exceptionalism, mainly as a result of travel abroad. The Guardian has a long and fascinating excerpt, in which Hansen holds herself and others accountable for these persistent delusions of superiority: “Young white Americans of course go through pain, insecurity, and heartache. But it is very, very rare that young white Americans come across someone who tells them in harsh, unforgiving terms that they might be merely the easy winners of an ugly game, and indeed that because of their ignorance and misused power, they might be the losers within a greater moral universe.” Her book debuts August 15.

While it wasn’t exactly written with them in mind, the popular 1990s YA series Animorphs ended up speaking to young transgender readers, particularly because of the character Toby, whom fans might recall ended up trapped in the body of a hawk for fifty-three installments, even attempting suicide at one point, driven by desperation to resume his proper form. The Los Angeles Review of Books takes a closer look at this series, and why certain trans kids kept reading these books long after others outgrew them. Author Cassius Adair recalls lingering over the boilerplate copy printed inside each book cover: We can’t tell you who we are. Or where we live. It’s too risky, and we’ve got to be careful. Really careful. So we don’t trust anyone. Because if they find us… well, we just won’t let them find us.