Banned Books Week is celebrating its 30th anniversary – because, well, people are still trying to remove Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird from library shelves. And the American Library Association is still fighting the good fight to keep that from happening. “Our motto is: 30 years of liberating literature,” says Barbara Jones, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.
Once again, bibliophiles can discuss the most frequently challenged books – currently led by Lauren Myracle’s ttyl, ttfn, and l8r, g8r; Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of Earth; and Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy – online, at the BBW Virtual Read-Out and using social media like Twitter (#bannedbooksweek) and Facebook.
But there’s also plenty that’s new for Banned Books Week 2012 (September 30 to October 6). Here’s a rundown:
First Banned Books Week chairs. This year TV journalists Bill Moyers and his wife, Judith Davidson Moyers, are BBW’s inaugural honorary chairpeople. In his video for BBW 2012, the PBS host notes that last year the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom recorded 326 challenges to library materials. “It pains me today that even in this modern age, some folks are saying, nope, that book isn’t for you,” he says in the video. “Some of the most inspiring and mind-opening words ever written are threatened with removal because they offended a self-deputized vigilante… Censorship is the enemy of truth, even more than a lie. A lie can be exposed. Censorship can prevent us from knowing the difference.” The video was Moyers’s idea – he contacted the ALA and said he would like to do a video for the Read-Out. In turn, says Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, “we said, ‘Would you consider taking it up a notch and actually being the honorary co-chair of the event?”
Library sleep-in. In protest of last year’s banning by a Missouri high school of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Corey Michael Dalton, editor of the children’s magazine Jack and Jill, will spend the entirety of Banned Books Week living in the window of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis. He will be inside a “prison” created from previously banned books, and filmmaker Michael Moore will read from Slaughterhouse-Five at the Vonnegut Library during BBW. Dalton’s employer gave him permission to work from the library, where he will sleep in an army cot and leave the window only to take a daily shower and go to the bathroom. The Vonnegut library came to him with the idea.
Movie tie-in. At least one library – the Benicia Public Library in Benicia, Calif. – is celebrating BBW with an event tied to the debut of the movie version of the challenged novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower. For its September 28 gathering, the library will display On the Road and other frequently challenged books that Charlie, Wallflower’s main character, reads. Organizer Brandi Bette Smead, teen services librarian at Benicia, expects 50 kids to attend. “People are shocked to find out some of their favorite books have been banned,” she says.
New challenge reporting form. The ALA’s Jones says the 326 challenges reported last year represent only a fraction of all contested books. “It’s the tip of the iceberg,” she says. The ALA has been working with the University of Illinois and MIT to create an easier-to-use form.
Book drop. Macmillan asked several of its authors, including Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak) and Marissa Meyer (Cinder), to bring banned books to their local libraries with personal notes that say “Read Banned Books!” Julie Halpern, a former school librarian and author of Get Well Soon, signed on immediately. She says she enjoys asking kids, “How would you feel if somebody said you couldn’t read something?” The issue hit home for her when a parent at a middle school in Fond du Lac, Wis., challenged her book, among others). “It was like a trial,” she says. “It was interesting to watch the process of people wanting to save a book.” Their efforts paid off, and the school retained Halpern’s novel
50-state salute. For its new 50 State Salute to Banned Books Week, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom plans to collect short videos from organizations in every state. The first one, from Alabama, features the staged arrest of a Gadsden Public Library, for reading Shel Silverstein; the deadline for submissions is September 28.
Author quotes. Simon & Schuster’s ads (on unshelved.com for teachers and librarians) and on its Web site feature new, original quotes about banned books from frequently challenged authors. Chains author Laurie Halse Anderson says, “Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.” Misfits author James Howe says, “Banning books is just another form of bullying.” And What My Mother Doesn’t Know author Sonya Sones says, “Sendak, Salinger, Steinbeck… and Sones? I never met a banned books list I didn’t want to be on.”