Feb 2, 2010

A library of books barred from Texas prisons

One thing prisoners have a lot of is time. One way to pass that time is to read. But prisoners in the Texas system have a short list to choose from, considering all the publications banned by the state's department of corrections.

From the Austin American-Statesmen:
Novels by National Book Award winners Pete Dexter, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx and William T. Vollmann have been banned in recent years. Award finalists Katherine Dunn and Barry Hannah are on the Texas no-read list, too, as are Pulitzer Prize winners Alice Walker, Robert Penn Warren and John Updike.

Prisoners can't peruse certain books by Pablo Neruda and Andre Gide, both Nobel laureates. "Krik? Krak!" by Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat, who last year won a MacArthur "genius" grant, is prohibited behind Lone Star bars. Books of paintings by some of the world's greatest artists — da Vinci, Picasso, Botticelli, Michelangelo — have been ordered out of state correctional facilities.

And just because a book is a best-seller in the free world doesn't mean it's available on the inside. Harold Robbins, Pat Conroy, Hunter S. Thompson, Dave Barry and James Patterson belong to the don't-read fraternity. Mystery writer Carl Hiaasen does, too, as do Kinky Friedman and Janet Fitch, whose "White Oleander" was an Oprah's Book Club selection.

John Grisham has had four blockbusters banned since 2005. And inmates will have to wait for parole before diving into "Precious," the book by Sapphire that last year was turned into a critically acclaimed movie.

Political connections don't seem to count for much, either. Her father may have been governor and president, but Jenna Bush's "Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope" made the banned list in November 2008.

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