Banned Books Week: Marginalized Authors and Censorship

“Banned Book Week 2014” by San Jose Public Library/ CC BY-SA 2.0

As a librarian, I find it a pity that we still need to celebrate Banned Books Week, which happens to be September 27th  – October 3rd this year. According to the American Library Association (ALA) Banned Books Week is a celebration of “current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools… The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.”

Banned Books Week started in 1982 with a dramatic display to highlight the problem. The American Booksellers Association (ABA) exhibited a display of 500 books in a padlocked cage at a trade show in Anaheim, California. As a tribute to that event 38 years later, books that have been banned or challenged for various reasons continue to be celebrated. The terms banned and challenged books are sometimes used interchangeably but they are some differences. Banned books refer to the removal of items, challenged  books are oppositional attempts by groups or individuals to restrict access to materials used in curriculum and libraries.

They are many reasons for censoring materials but some of the common ones are political views; racial content; lifestyle choices that people find objectionable; sexually explicit situations, profanity and violence; witchcraft, religious and blasphemous dialog. As we celebrate another year of Banned Books Week, I urged you to also think about debates on censorship and public outcry for retailers to remove works of authors who write about the experiences of marginalized groups outside of their own. What is your opinion on an author telling others narrative? Does a a public outcry from the offending group constitute censorship? How comfortable are you with the authenticity of the experiences when a writer from outside their group tells your story?

They are many situations why books are challenged; readers get passionate when they are challenges to intellectual freedom. For a list of banned or challenged works, check out the listing of titles that ALA maintains. In honor of Banned Books Week, I urged you to get involved in advocacy. Visit the City Tech library online collection and immerse yourself in one of our many e-books that have been deemed banned or challenged at some point. Happy reading!

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