MANAGING MOSAIC EDITOR
Each year, the American Library Association (ALA) hosts “Banned Books Week”: a promotion of the numerous books that are challenged by readers.
In order for a book to be considered “challenged,” there must be some sort of movement from a reader or readers who want a certain title removed from circulation.
Professor April Kendra of the English department has brought the ALA’s event to the university for the past five years. Last year, the university’s own Library Diversity Committee and Sigma Tau Delta English Honor Society joined her in support.
On Wed. students and staff were able to step up to a podium set up on The Green and read out a portion of a banned or challenged book. Despite the heat, people showed up to read from a diverse selection of novels that were either hand-picked or chosen from a shelf of banned books provided by the library. Some of the titles included J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye,” “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini and children’s book “Nappy Hair” by Carolivia Herron.
Although students in Kendra’s classes were given opportunities to sign up for time slots to read prior to the event, one of the goals of the read out was to attract students who were passing by.
“Even if people stand and hear what people are reading for five minutes or 10 minutes, it sort of promotes that conversation about ‘why is this banned? I can’t believe this is banned,’” says Allison Ebner, the writer for the library. “Maybe that will inspire them to read something themselves.”
Ebner has been working closely with the Library Diversity Committee on the promotion of the event.
The primary purpose of the Banned Books Read Out is to inform people — whether avid readers or not — about the titles that continue to be challenged and placed on the ALA’s list every year. Many readers have been surprised to discover that J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series is a big name that was placed on the list in 1999 for allegedly promoting occult activities.
“I’m still amazed that it happens and that people want to remove these books from consumption,” Ebner says.
Library Assistant Amy Eyre has been employed at the library for 20 years, is also a co-chair of the Library Diversity Committee. She says that the committee is excited about being involved in the read out, and that they hope to build on what they did with the event last year.
“We hope to get more and more involved in campus-wide events,” says Eyre.
Eyre also says that prior to this event, the Library Diversity Committee mostly operated within the confines of the library staff itself.
Both Eyre and Ebner expressed their continuous disbelief at the different titles that get placed on the list — “even the Bible is on there,” says Eyre.
Ebner says that the presence of Stephen Chbosky’s novel “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” on the list is what really shocked her.
“It’s a believable story that resonates with people,” Ebner says. “So to have someone say that it’s inappropriate, it’s just like, that’s real life.”