Banned Books and the Myopic ALA

I have written many times here about the American Library Association and their refusal to condemn the castro government not only for its censorship of informational material but castro’s mistreatment of independent librarians. Our good friend Scott G. painstakingly put together a list of books banned in Cuba and sent it along with the following note:

Books Banned in Cuba

Some time ago, I inquired on this blog as to whether anyone had a list of books banned in Cuba. Nobody could refer me to a complete list, but many people were interested in one. So, from looking at many sources, here is the most complete list I have been able to come up with. If anyone can add to this list, I would appreciate it.

Below is a list of books, the possession of which has resulted in arrest, prosecution, and/or imprisonment in Cuba. I have supplied subtitles and an ISBN for one (but not every) edition for each title. All titles are in English when available.

Since this is a list of books banned in Cuba, it should serve as a list of required reading for us. Happy Reading!

1. Amnesty International. Amnesty International Report, 1999.
2. Ash, Timothy Garton. The Magic Lantern.
3. Cabrera Infante, Guillermo. View of Dawn in the Tropics.
4. Constitution of the United States of America.
5. Courtois, Stephane, et al. The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression.
6.Cumerlato, Corinne and Denis Rousseau. La Isla del Doctor Castro: La Transici?n Secuestrado.
7. Diamond, Larry and Marc F. Plattner, eds. The Global Resurgence of Democracy.
8. D?az-Briquets, Sergio and Jorge F. P?rez-L?pez. Conquering Nature: The Environmental Legacy of Socialism in Cuba.
9. Edwards, Jorge. Persona Non Grata: A Memoir of Disenchantment with the Cuban Revolution.
10. Fern?ndez Revuelta, Alina. Castro?s Daughter: An Exile?s Memoir of Cuba.
11. Franqui, Carlos. Diary of the Cuban Revolution.
12. Franqui, Carlos. Family Portrait with Fidel: A Memoir.
13. Furet, Francois. The Passing of an Illusion: The Idea of Communism in the Twentieth Century.
14. Geyer, Georgie Anne. Guerrilla Prince.
15. Guti?rrez Boronat, Orland. Hacia la gran naci?n.
16. Harrison, Lawrence E. Underdevelopment Is a State of Mind: The Latin American Case.
17. Havel, Vaclav. Living in Truth.
18. –. The Art of the Impossible.
19. –. Toward a Civil Society: Selected Speeches and Writings, 1990 ? 1994.
20. –. The Power of the Powerless: Citizens Against the State in Central-Eastern Europe.
21. Human Rights Watch. Cuba?s Repressive Machinery: Human Rights Forty Years After the Revolution.
22. King, Martin Luther Jr. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.
23. Matos, H?ber. C?mo Lleg? La Noche.
24. McDowell, Josh. Evidence that Demands a Verdict.
25. Mesa-Lago; Carmelo, Alberto Arenas; and Malena Barro. Market, Socialist, and Mixed Economies : Comparative Policy and Performance–Chile, Cuba, and Costa Rica.
26. Michnik, Adam. Letters from Prison.
27. Muller, Alberto and Oswaldo Pay?. El Proyecto Varela.
28. Oppenheimer, Andr?s. Castro?s Final Hour: An Eyewitness Account of the Disintegration of Castro?s Cuba.
29. Orwell, George. 1984.
30. –. Animal Farm.
31. Rojas, Rafael. Jos? Mart?: La Invenci?n de Cuba.
32. Roosevelt, Eleanor, et al. Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
33. Sakharov, Andrei. Sakharov Speaks.
34. Solzhenitsyn, Alexander. Letters to the Soviet Leaders.
35.Walensa, Lech. A Way of Hope.

The list of forbidden materials also includes many magazines, pamphlets, and other materials. Also confiscated in the course of arrests: fax machines, copy machines, typewriters, audio and video cassette recorders, telephones, and phone cards.

For some interesting reading, read the sentencing documents at Rule of Law and Cuba:

They were scanned by optical character recognition and translated from Spanish by computer, so they read kind of strangely, but are very interesting. If you read them, you will see that medicines were often confiscated as well.

Also please visit the Center for a Free Cuba.

And this is a must-read four-part article by librarian Walter Skold:

Lastly, please visit Friends of Cuban Libraries

Speaking Friends of Cuban Libraries, we recieved the following from their Director Robert Kent on the ongoing battle between the Friends of Cuban Libraries and the limosine leftist leaders of the ALA:

Dear Bloggers:

Here are three updates on the intensifying dispute over control of key ALA offices and committees by the extremist faction. Thanks for your feedback, and PLEASE keep sending me the addresses of other sympathetic bloggers. We need to get word out of the revolt brewing within the ALA! – Robert Kent, Friends of Cuban Libraries.

If you want to see one of the most incredible smack downs of castro cultists like Michael Gorman, etal, of the ALA, you definitely need to read the contents of Robert Kent’s email, found below the fold:


1. Response by Robert Kent to ALA prez Gorman’s letter condemning Andrei Codrescu and the Friends as “foaming right-wingers.”

2. Effort by Mark Rosenzweig to stifle dissent by imposing the Marxist doctrine of “democratic centralism” on the “AL Direct” publication. The extremists are furious because an AL Direct reader poll indicated (at last count) that 75% (yes, SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT) of respondents want the ALA to condemn the persecution of Cuba’s independent librarians.

3. Text of a superb article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the ALA uproar caused by Andrei Codrescu’s speech.


Feb. 8, 2006

Dear Mr. Gorman:

Thank you for your letter of January 27 regarding The Friends of Cuban Libraries’ report on Andrei Codrescu’s speech at the ALA conference in San Antonio. Your response to our numerous attempts to communicate, belated as it is, offers added proof that the effort by a small extremist faction within the ALA to deceive, cover up and lie about the systematic persecution of Cuba’s independent librarians, and the burning of their library collections, is finally unraveling. Your letter is an indirect acknowledgement that the ALA is beginning to repair and reclaim its proud heritage as an impartial defender of intellectual freedom as a universal human right.

Your “report…” is entirely typical of your many utterances in the past and of the behavior of your friend Mr. Codrescu. That is, it is tendentious, riddled with inaccuracies, defamatory, and motivated by the kind of foaming right wingery that is, alas, all too common in political discourse these days.

If Andrei Codrescu and The Friends of Cuban Libraries have engaged in defamation, then a lawsuit is called for. Although I am not a lawyer, to a layperson telling the truth would seem to be poor grounds for a successful defamation lawsuit.

“Every burned book enlightens the world,” wrote Emerson, and thanks to the intervention of “foaming right-wingers” such as Andrei Codrescu, Nat Hentoff and Ray Bradbury, at long last the thousands of Cuban library books seized or burned by Castro’s secret police are beginning to enlighten the general public, including the well-meaning but inattentive majority on the governing ALA Council who until recently have accepted the assurances of “experts” on extremist-dominated ALA committees that nothing of interest is happening in Cuba. We all know what the public would have thought of fluent German-speaking “researchers” who visited Berlin in the 1930’s and proclaimed that they could find no evidence of repression or censorship in Nazi Germany. Did you really believe, Mr. Gorman, that the public would not catch on to the ALA’s Spanish-speaking “researchers” who visit Havana and try, with a straight face, to make similar claims about the Communist regime in Cuba?

And, in addition to Andrei Codrescu, Nat Hentoff and Ray Bradbury, let’s not forget other “foaming right-wingers” such as Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Cornel West and Howard Zinn who have also spoken out against the repression of Cuban dissidents, including the independent librarians now serving life sentences for daring to open uncensored libraries in an historic challenge to a totalitarian regime. All of the librarians convicted after Castro’s 2003 crackdown have been adopted as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International and other renowned organizations, which is just another of the inconvenient facts systematically ignored or covered up by extremist-dominated ALA committees in their fraudulent “investigations” of Cuba.

I am old-fashioned enough to think that it is both rude and devious to accept an invitation to speak on a topic and use the opportunity to attack your host (ALA).

Is it really rude to inform one’s host that his/her house is on fire? On the contrary: ignoring, lying about and covering up the truth about the rising flames in a host’s house would be the true outrage. Nor is it inappropriate to inform ALA members, including the well-meaning but inattentive majority on the governing ALA Council, that they have been deceived by a small, scheming faction of extremists who are trying to destroy the ethical basis of the ALA.

I have not “repeatedly dodged” questions about Cuba. I have not chosen to > answer your fulminations but, then, I would have no time for my many other duties if I were to engage in correspondence with every half-wit and crackpot who communicates with me.

This passage in your letter requires an explanation for the uninformed reader. In October 2005 the Friends of Cuban Libraries issued an emergency report about Victor Rolando Arroyo, a jailed Cuban reporter and independent librarian who was near death due to a hunger strike called to protest prison conditions. Victor, the director of the Reyes Magos Library in western Cuba, was arrested in March 2003 and the 6,000 volumes in the Reyes Magos Library were confiscated by the secret police. After a one-day trial, Victor Rolando Arroyo was sentenced to a 20-year prison term. When his life was in danger because of a hunger strike, we made a public appeal to you, Mr. Gorman, hoping that you would compassionately agree to help save the life of a fellow human being, regardless of his beliefs, real of perceived. Sadly, our hopes were misplaced, as you repeatedly refused to respond to our letters or to make any effort whatsoever to save Victor’s life. Fortunately, Victor’s life was saved thanks to the intervention of several human rights organizations. Did you act in this way because Victor, too, should be scorned as a “foaming right-winger?” One of the charges made against Victor during his one-day trial was that he had been awarded the Hellman-Hammett Prize, issued by Human Rights Watch to honor victims of repression. The award is named for Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett, two more “foaming right-wingers” harassed for their beliefs during the McCarthy era in the U.S.

Mr. Codrescu seems to share your curious delusion that everyone who lends another person a book is a “librarian.” Few others do.

Mr. Gorman, efforts to ignore the facts by taking refuge in semantic quibbling are beginning to fail. It is irrelevant whether a library worker has a library degree or not, as shown by the ALA’s championing of Eliades Acosta, the despicable director of Havana’s National Library who serves as Castro’s spokesperson for the persecution of the independent librarians. Mr. Acosta does not have a library degree, just as many ALA members and the U.S. Librarian of Congress also lack a library degree. It can never be a crime to oppose censorship or to open a library, with or without a university degree, no matter what the ALA’s extremist minority may claim to the contrary. The same goes for nonsensical claims that Cuba’s independent libraries are somehow not real libraries, even though the ALA’s own mandate defends the legitimacy of “all libraries.” Is there some aspect of the phrase “all libraries,” Mr. Gorman, which is ambiguous? And just as the ALA extremists claim, or pretend to claim, that a library worker is not a library worker and a library is not a library, will they also dare to claim that a book is not a book, just because it is held by an independent library in Cuba? Or can we safely scorn and disregard the existence of a pile of ashes that used to be a book, as has been the fate of thousands of library books seized by the secret police in Cuba?

In summary, Mr. Gorman, the long “reign of error” enjoyed by the ALA’s extremist minority is beginning to collapse. In growing numbers, ALA members realize that they have been deceived. We are confident that the majority of well-meaning ALA Council members will now begin to pay overdue attention to this important subject and, acting in a principled and impartial manner, restore the ALA’s ethical basis by supporting Cuba’s brave independent librarians and their historic defense of intellectual freedom. We also hope that you, after re-assessing the facts, will disavow the elaborate lies and cover ups of the extremists by siding with the vast majority of ALA members who support truth and justice.


Robert Kent

Co-chair, The Friends of Cuban Libraries


2. Mark Rosenzweig is trying to impose the Marxist doctrine of “democratic centralism” on the ALA Council, whereby rank-and-file members are forbidden to disagree with the Central Committee’s established policies, or even (as in the case of reader polls in AL Direct) to even have an avenue for expressing disagreement.) At last report, Michael Gorman had sent a memo to AL Direct editor Leonard Kniffel “suggesting,” in accordance with Rosenzweig’s demands, that polling be dropped from AL Direct:

—–Original Message—–
From: [] On Behalf Of MCR
Sent: Sunday, February 05, 2006 12:58 PM
To: ALA Council List
Subject: [ALACOUN:17056] RE: On AL Direct and “polling”

[Message posted by Rosenzweig:] …For Council to “poll” the members on an issue, any issue, there would have to be a public meeting, a motion, a debate, a vote, probably a referral to BARC, and pro-and-con would have to have a chance to present positions publicly…

No, we don’t “own” the right: we scarcely HAVE the right (yes we have the possible option, subject to all the just mentioned constraints), never mind a means to do it on a regular basis.

Why should the editors of AL, outside of all democratic governance and using their privileged direct access to the membership, be allowed to create — without Council’s approval –apparently without being enjoined either to do so by the Executive Board — a standing mechanism whereby they can decide what to poll about, how to do it, how to frame policy issues, when to take phony “unscientific” and meaningless (though influential) polls, when/where/how to publicize the results ?

American Library’s editor in present practice already has a “super-voice” on policy; the editor has direct and immediate access to tens of thousands of members AND the authority (or appearance of authority) of official publication, makes it more influential than virtually ANY ALA governance body, committee, elected individual, personal member (including the President ) or other staff (including the ED). The new AL Direct is an invitation to abuse of that, and the fact that the first issue had that absurd “poll” on Cuba (it’s not that it’s Cuba that irks me, it could be ANY policy they chose to call into question) only made it clear that there is an intention to do just that . It should give us on Council pause.

Mark Rosenzweig
ALA Councilor at large

3. Keynote Speaker Assails American Library Association for Its Stance on Cuban Libraries

February 2, 2006


A debate within the American Library Association over whether to condemn Cuba for jailing dissident librarians grew fiercer last week after a keynote speaker at the association’s midwinter meeting accused the group of failing to defend free speech.

“Am I hallucinating? Is this the same American Library Association that stands against censorship and for freedom of expression everywhere?” said the speaker, Andrei Codrescu, a Romanian-born writer.

Mr. Codrescu, who is a professor of English at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, had been asked to talk at the meeting, held in San Antonio, about “libraries in the future.” But his speech included an impassioned defense of Cuba’s independent-library movement, which he likened to the underground book exchanges of his youth in Communist Romania.

“I became a writer because a professor in my hometown lent forbidden books,” Mr. Codrescu said in a telephone interview on Monday. “He could have gone to prison.”

The Cuban library movement was founded in 1998 by a married couple of professors, Ram?n Col?s and Berta Mexidor, who later fled to Miami. The movement seeks to give Cubans access to publications deemed “counterrevolutionary” by the island’s Communist government, such as George Orwell’s Animal Farm and the United Nations’ ?Universal Declaration of Human Rights.? (

There are now more than 100 independent libraries in Cuba, each one usually comprising several hundred books kept in someone’s house (The Chronicle, ( June 8, 2001). The Cuban government has responded by confiscating thousands of books and jailing more than a dozen independent librarians, who have been accused of treason for collaborating with the U.S. government. (The librarians say that only some of their books come from the U.S. Interests Section in the Swiss Embassy, the highest-level U.S. government office in Cuba.)

‘So-Called Librarians’

Despite vehement protests from some of its members, the ALA has refrained from defending the independent librarians. Association officials argue that the Cuban movement — whose leaders they describe as “so-called librarians” — is more political than scholarly.

“There is some evidence to suggest that it’s really the U.S. Interests Section” that is leading the movement as part of a bid “to destabilize the Cuban government,” said John W. Berry, a former president of the association, “and that alone causes many members of ALA to want to stay a little bit clear of the politics of this situation.” Mr. Berry, who runs a network of community-college libraries in Illinois, led fact-finding missions to Cuba in 2001 and 2002. He found no evidence of censorship at Cuba’s state-run libraries, he said.

Mr. Codrescu argues that such a position is hypocritical, given the association’s outspoken opposition to what it has called the censorship provisions of the USA Patriot Act.

“I pointed out what to me seemed very obvious,” he said on Monday, “which is that the ALA should take a stand with their fellow Cuban librarians who are in prison.” He added that he had received dozens of letters from ALA librarians in support of his views.

“There is a very serious discussion going on, and I would certainly hope that something would come of it,” he said.

Robert Kent, a humanities reference librarian at the New York Public Library, said Mr. Codrescu’s speech would build pressure on the ALA to change its stance. “All we need is to tell the truth,” said Mr. Kent, who founded a support group, Friends of Cuban Libraries, in 1999. The association, he said, is trying to “pretend that nothing is happening.”

Mr. Berry disagreed. “I think it’s unlikely that this will surface again,” he said. He argued that the association’s current policy — reflected in ?a 2004 report? ( on Cuba — is actually quite critical of the Cuban government and its practice of jailing dissidents, although the report does not make specific reference to the jailed librarians.

Members of the Cuban movement acknowledge that they are not trained librarians. But that, they say, should not stop the association from supporting their efforts to reduce censorship.

“It’s true that every independent librarian is a dissident,” Elizardo S?nchez, one of Cuba’s leading dissidents and an independent librarian in Havana, said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “The fact that someone decides to have books and lend them to his neighbors is for the government a ‘counterrevolutionary act.’ ”

9 thoughts on “Banned Books and the Myopic ALA”

  1. you can add these to the list.

    Author Reinaldo Bragado Breta?a
    La muerte sin remitente
    La ciudad hechizada
    La estaci?n equivocada
    Bajo el sombrero
    En torno al cero
    El ?lbum de las sombrillas
    Curazao 24: cuidado con el perro

    From Cubanet
    “Public? adem?s La Fisura, dos tomos de testimonios sobre los derechos humanos en Cuba. En Miami cre? tambi?n el magazine literario El Peque?o Caf?”

    Reinaldo passed away recently in Miami.
    there are numerous articles on about him

    He was a great friend and cousin and he is very much missed. The last book I mentioned
    Curazao 24: cuidado con el perro
    has a special meaning for me and my family, it is the last residence we had in Cuba, it was my aunts house and where my dad spent much of his time. I have many memories, not all good, of this place in La Habana vieja.

  2. Like all deluded moonbats of the increasingly discredited pharisee-left, micro-intellects like Gorman can’t handle the truth. But the truth will keep coming back to bite them in the ass.

  3. For a history of how the American library profession turned a blind eye to censorhip in the soviet union, get ahold of “Not Seeing Red: American Librarianship and the Soviet Union, 1917-1960” by Stephen Karetzky.

  4. Beautiful Post man… Many people don’t realize the details of how castro’s evil machine works. The oppression of independent thought is the clearest and most obvious example. The more we expose this -as you, Scott G. and others have done- the more we untangle the complex web that keeps castro in power. Thanks!

  5. Great job, Scott G!
    And thanks to Val for posting this list, which I hope will be added to and re-posted again and again and again –and forwarded to those recalcitrant castro-loving librarians, wherever they are, so they and the entire world can see and understand the true nature of totalitarianism.
    We should be able to add to the list any literary work produced by a Cuban writer outside of the island, because the tiranosaurius doesn’t waste any time labeling them as “enemies of the people” and banning their creations.
    No, se~nor tirano, ellos no son enemigos del pueblo… son enemigos tuyos (No, mr. tyrant, they are not enemies of the people, they are *your* enemies).
    You miserable excuse of a failed leader, ineptness and injustice for all. We shall all dance and spit (or worse!) on your grave when you go down for the final time.
    All of Cuba –even those who must feign loyalty to your failed system now– will be happy, no, ecstatic, when you are gone.
    And el pueblo –the entire country– will be better off when you disappear for good.
    Viva Cuba libre. Ya no m’as!

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