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NewSouth Books author Rod Davis busy protesting and celebrating, all in the name of literature

NewSouth Books author Rod Davis (East of Texas, West of Hell among others) responded this autumn to radical right-wing attacks from the Texas governor and members of the state legislature on books in schools that could cause student “distress.” Davis asked the Texas House of Representatives General Investigating Committee that one of his works join the list of titles subject to inspection and possible ban. His letter to the committee stated: “I am sending this to make you aware of another book that should be added to Rep. Krause’s list to the Texas Education Agency of 850 titles to be reviewed for possible removal from use in various schools in Texas for containing materials that ‘might make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex.’ American Voudou: Journey into a Hidden World is filled with many controversial references to race, religion, civil rights protests, slavery, lynching, sexual roles, and white supremacy. While it was originally printed in 1998 by a Texas publisher—the University of North Texas Press—it likely may still be referenced by students seeking information on African religions that came to America, especially the South, aboard slave vessels. Certainly this could cause distress. It belongs with the 850.”

As an added gesture, Rod also joined members of the Texas Institute of Letters in signing a protest statement objecting to the intensifying suppressions that now include suspensions and firing of teachers and administrators at some schools: 

Meanwhile, as a member of the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors, Rod serves on two awards committees—Criticism and Biography—which, like the other NBCC board committees, is working to complete reviews and discussions on dozens of entries leading to final selection of winners early in 2022.

Sadly, one of the longtime NBCC board members—poet, playwright, author, and critic Gregg Barrios—passed away in August, and Rod assisted the San Antonio literary center, Gemini Ink, in preparing a two-day commemoration in November, including (due to pandemic concerns) the video, “Rebel with a Cause: A Virtual Celebration of the Literary Life of Gregg Barrios”: 

It featured a range of well-known literary figures from Texas and around the country, and a panel moderated by Clay Smith, now Chief of Literary Initiatives at the Library of Congress. This is Rod’s contribution, stressing Barrios’s time as a Vietnam Era veteran and interest in telling veterans’ stories:

Davis also wrote the memorial for Barrios for the Texas Institute of Letters:  (Scroll down to the 2021 line and click on his name.)