Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series are only a small sample of the top 100 banned or challenged books of the past decade. Banning books might sound like a problem of the past, but there are still attempts to censor literature today. To illustrate this, Anythink libraries is hosting "Censorship Happens," a series of events during Banned Books Week.
Although banning a book is a complicated process, there are still ways for institutions like schools, libraries and churches to "challenge" a book they find controversial. According to the American Library Association, "a challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group."
"The whole purpose of Banned Books Week is really to kind of draw attention to censorship and the fact that books are being banned across the country. People are often very surprised by the fact that books are still being banned, and the types of books that are being banned," says Stacie Ledden, communications director at Anythink libraries. "A lot of these are national treasures, they're award-winners."
Anythink's events next week will include Books on the Chopping Block, with members of Outlaw Production Company presenting dramatic readings from some of last year's most challenged books. That list includes the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey and Beloved by Toni Morrison. Another attraction is Fighting the Fires of Hate: America and the Nazi Book Burning, an exhibition on loan from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Anythink Wright Farms has been hosting the show since August, and this will be its last week in town.
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To coincide with the exhibition, local professor/lawyer/ACLU rep Charles Nadler will be leading a discussion on censorship in education, media, employment, law and the Internet. "People will have an opportunity to sort of think about censorship in these different realms and how they would react in certain situations, and then we'll come together to really talk about how it affects our world today," Ledden says. That discussion is slated for September 25.
Although the format for books and media is changing, the evils of censorship remain. "It's important for us as part of who we are as an institution; our job is to really provide access for all," Ledden says. "And we do that to help inform our community and also to make sure that the people who might not have access in their homes and in their communities, they have somewhere that they can go, that is safe, that they can be exposed to different ideas."
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Other Anythink activities during Banned Book Week include making artworks out of used books and a tag team read-aloud. For a full schedule of events, visit the Anythink website.