Band Against the Ban in Arizona

Band Against the Ban; headshots of Arizona Senator Christine Marsh, Darrell Hill, EJ Montini, Taté Walker, Kyle Patton, and Lydia Zulema Martinez Vega

The PEN Arizona Chapter in Phoenix welcomed local leaders and writers in support of free expression during Banned Books Week 2022. These speakers included Arizona Senator Christine Marsh, American Civil Liberties Union Policy Director Darrell Hill, and veteran Arizona Republic columnist EJ Montini. The evening included education on the current environment of book bans in Arizona, banned-book readings by local writers, socializing, a photo booth, and tips for how to band against book banning in our state.

Banned Books Week 2022-Band Against the Ban in Arizona


Senator Christine Marsh headshotArizona State Senator Christine Marsh is a proud Phoenician, a graduate of Arizona public schools, and a current state senator. She raised her two sons and six foster children in Phoenix. Christine’s teaching career spans four decades. She taught junior and senior English for 25 years before making the decision to move to middle school. She is currently in her 32nd year of teaching in public schools in Arizona. In 2016, Christine was named Arizona Teacher of the Year, an experience that provided her the opportunity to travel the state to see first-hand the issues faced by Arizona’s students and communities.

She continues to teach while serving in the state senate and currently sits on the Senate Education Committee, and the Transportation and Technology Committee. In her first term, she sponsored a bill to legalize fentanyl testing strips after the tragic death of her son from a fentanyl overdose. This was one of only five Democrat-authored bills from the senate to be signed into law last session. Christine remains a staunch advocate for education and for Arizona families.

Darrell Hill headshotDarrell Hill is the policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. Darrell’s work includes legislative advocacy in the areas of abortion, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, criminal justice reform, and education equity. As policy director, Darrell Hill has worked to successfully pass legislation prohibiting the suspension and expulsion of young students for minor disciplinary infractions and legislation to address healthcare inequity during the pandemic. Before Darrell became policy director, he was an ACLU of Arizona staff attorney where he successfully litigated cases concerning voting rights, Arizona’s Free Exercise of Religion Act, public records law, and the first amendment. Darrell graduated from Wisconsin Law School and has a B.A in English and sociology from Northwestern University.

E.J. Montini headshotE.J. Montini is a veteran columnist for Arizona’s largest and most prominent newspaper, The Arizona Republic. He was born and raised in the southwestern Pennsylvania town of Aliquippa. His Italian immigrant grandfathers worked in the Jones & Laughlin steel mill built along the Ohio River. His father and his uncles worked there. His cousins worked there. His brother worked there. He worked there, saving money to attend Penn State, where he majored (mostly) in English literature. While still in school he took an internship at his hometown newspaper, The Beaver County Times. From there he found work with several newspapers in the east until he and his late wife, the writer and book reviewer Anne Stephenson, moved to Arizona.

He has been a news columnist at The Arizona Republic (and since 1986, having covered everything from the impeachment, trial and removal of Gov. Evan Mecham, the indictment of Gov. Fife Symington, the reign of terror of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the political psychopathy of Wendy Rogers, Mark Finchem and Kari Lake, and he contends most ardently that none of it was his fault. As a boy in St. Titus Roman Catholic Grade School the good Sisters of St. Joseph told him, sometimes with great enthusiasm, that his smart mouth would not get him anywhere.

Additional Readings By

Taté Walker headshot

Taté Walker is a Lakota citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe of South Dakota. They are an award-winning Two Spirit storyteller for outlets like The Nation, Everyday Feminism, Native Peoples, Indian Country Today, Apartment Therapy, and ANMLY. They are also featured in several anthologies, including FIERCE: Essays by and about Dauntless Women, South Dakota in Poems, W.W. Norton’s Everyone’s an Author, The Languages of Our Love: An Indigenous Love and Sex Anthology (forthcoming Fall 2022 from Abalone Mountain Press), and Ethical Eating: Conversations, Conflicts, Commitments (forthcoming Fall 2023 from New York University Press). Taté recently released their first full-length, illustrated poetry book, The Trickster Riots (Abalone Mountain Press, 2022).

Lydia Zulema Martinez Vega headshotLydia Zulema Martinez Vega, Chicana Indigena, Mother of a Danza Azteca drummer, daughter of Campesinos, Costeña Sinaloense brought as contraband to the North, nourished off a bag of potatoes and a jug of dirty water, because sometimes there was not even enough for beans. Her work in the community has always been guided by her Elder’s teachings. Using the creativity of writing and theater as a tool for social justice, personal growth, and community healing. She states that, “art is the direct connection to the soul.” Somewhere along the lines of migration and commercialization, we have forgotten that we come from communities and legacies that are rooted in resilience and strength. Lydia presently resides in Phoenix, Arizona by way of California. She is self published: Suspiros en lo Profundo del Mar (2021), Cosiendo la Luna con un Hilo Rojo (2006), Haciendo Trenzitas con el Hilo de la Luna (2003), as well as having her poetry published in various literary journals and anthologies.

Kyle Patton headshot

Kyle Patton has spent 15 years traversing the worlds of journalism, photography and publishing. These days, he’s a flash fiction writer and long-time managing editor of two national medical magazines. He was a monthly contributor to The Arizona Republic and USA Today and is currently editing novels and working on his own.