Texas Prisons Ban Books by Langston Hughes, But ‘Mein Kampf’ Stays

Editor's Note:

Today’s news roundup also looks askance at California’s new autograph law, and just might put the kibosh on your Gatsby-themed wedding. Welcome to the Daily Blunt!

It turns out the laws governing which books are available to Texas prison inmates are capriciously enforced, at best. Complex reports that Sojourner Truth, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and other black literary icons are all banned from their libraries, where instances of the N-word or “deviant criminal sexual behavior” remain starkly forbidden — and yet, books like Mein Kampf and Lolita go uncontested. These racially-charged inconsistencies were brought to their attention by a group called Texas Civil Rights Project, which also notes that Texas boasts one of the highest incarceration rates in the US. Once convicted, you’ll find yourself barred from reading The Color Purple, but memoirs written by former KKK leader David Duke are fair game.

Meanwhile, booksellers in California are rallying against a recent law that requires stores to keep detailed records of any autographed item with a value over $5, which unduly impacts author signing events. The law, which requires retailers to “provide an extremely detailed ‘certificate of authenticity’ with each book, describing the book, identifying the signer, noting witnesses of the book signing, insurance information, and other details,” has been challenged in a lawsuit by the owner of Book Passage, a store which hosts up to 700 author events a year. That means the store is now accountable for thousands of pages of paperwork on the books authors sign, and the penalty for not complying properly is more than most independent bookstores can afford to risk. Now that the suit is filed, an official response from the state should soon be forthcoming.

A bunch of Judy Blume classics were recently overhauled with new cover artwork, drawing acclaim for their potential to lure a new generation of readers — particularly Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, with its visual allusion to SMS text conversations. Vox reached out to interview the major players involved in creating these new covers, and their responses broadcast the responsibility they felt for perpetuating the timeless ideas contained in Blume’s novels — and for creating covers that focus on more than just “sad girls in their bedrooms.”

Reductress has noted a trend that can no longer go un-spoofed: The Great Gatsby-themed weddings, which mainly serve to inform guests that you didn’t actually read the book. Their slideshow of examples is laced with caustic humor: “The Great Gatsby is a cautionary tale that, had you read it, would’ve definitely cautioned you against having it as a wedding theme. But you didn’t – so go forward and have a roaring good time!” Don’t forget to send an invitation to your high school English teacher, which will surely inspire them to consider early retirement (thus freeing them to attend).