Sunday, October 20, 2019
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20190925 AuthorVisitWith several books across the nation continuing to be challenged due to their content, the Sharyland Independent School District set out to celebrate these books with a local poet.

On Wednesday, 200 students from Sharyland High School were invited to hear Eduardo “Eddie” Vega, a McAllen native, read from his book of poetry “Chicharra Chorus.”

“We may not all have the same story or the same themes, but we can appreciate differences and that’s what this week is about. Acceptance, reaching out and starting with a ‘Hello,’” SHS Librarian Nicole Cruz said as she introduced students to Vega.

According to the American Library Association, Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. It was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries to highlight the value of free and open access to information.

Vega’s poetry included works such as “Son of South Texas,” “I didn’t write this poem for you,” To the Marvel Cinematic Universe,” and “Tio Manuel.” These poems advocated for pride of one’s heritage in the Rio Grande Valley and criticized anti-immigration attitudes and the lack of Hispanic actors in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

These poems, Vega said, were meant to teach students the importance of having their voices as members of the Hispanic community heard.

“If they don’t do this, who will?,” Vega asked. “How can they be expected to be their own voice without knowing they can be a voice? If someone was teaching me this kind of art when I was their age, it would’ve made it easier for me. Representation matters so hearing and seeing art made from someone who looks like me would’ve been inspiring and made me louder.”

As part of Banned Books Week, the ALA releases a yearly list of the 11 most challenged books of the previous year. Most of the books are young adult novels centered on LGBT characters and deal with death, suicide, sex and other adult topics.

Vega said he frequently read banned books as a child and can picture his book being considered controversial.

“The poems are about stuff that would’ve been frowned upon two generations ago so there’s definitely an influence,” Vega said. “Thankfully there’s a lot of spaces calling for more diversity in literature.”

Cruz said that that diversity is what made Vega’s work so important for students.

“Eddie is the voice of diverse literatures that schools across the nations need to support to have them understand that students come in many different shapes and sizes, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientation,” Cruz said. “We must have books that teach acceptance of those differences so Eddie is coming in with a voice unique to the Valley. We need more Hispanic authors, Latino poets, Mexican American voices for students to relate to. Everyone has a story, anyone can be a poet. I hope he encourages our students to express themselves.”