Again this year, the American Booksellers Association, American Library Association and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression will join other organizations in sponsoring Banned Books Week from September 20 through 27. In the past, the ALA has provided Banned Books Week kits free to all members of the ABA who request them. But this year, due to budgetary constraints, kits will cost $29. The kits contain everything except the books that booksellers will need in order to put up an effective Banned Books Week display in their bookstores. A kit comes with a list of all books challenged in 2002—2003; three posters featuring challenged titles (a children's books poster, a YA books poster, and an adult books poster); bookmarks; a pin; and a T-shirt featuring this year's Banned Books Week logo, which was inspired by Andy Warhol's painting of the Campbell's Soup can.
To order a Banned Books Week kit, booksellers may log onto the ABFFE Web site at www.abffe.com/banned.htm and use the link on that page to place an order. Alternatively, booksellers may call Jen Hammond at the ALA at (800) 545-2433, ext. 4220.
Last year, more than 1,000 independent booksellers and 2,500 libraries participated in Banned Books Week activities. Andy Graves, owner of the Happy Bookseller, Columbia, S.C., which has celebrated Banned Books Week since 1990, told PW that store personnel display banned books on a table by the cash register. Graves has also created a poster to hang above the banned books—a reproduction of a Pedro Berruguete painting hanging in the Prado in Madrid, La Prueba del Fuego [The Burning of the Book]. Graves described the eye-catching Spanish Early Renaissance painting as "looking like something from the Inquisition, as religious figures burn books."
Graves said the display sparks fascinating dialogue. "Customers are astonished by books that are banned. 'Who would ban the Bible?' 'Who would ban Harry Potter?' they ask," he said. "People don't know that this is going on around the country until we bring it to their attention during Banned Books Week. It's a real eye-opener for people walking into our store to buy books and finding out that people are trying to ban the same books elsewhere." Book challenges happen in schools where a principal or school board gives in to parental pressure to remove a title from the shelves of the school library.
Cammie Mannino, owner of Halfway Down the Stairs Children's Bookshop in Rochester, Mich., enjoys creating displays each year for children. The store windows are at eye level for children, while adults have to stoop to see through the windows. One of her favorite displays was last year's: literary characters from banned books were placed in stocks, with each figure's head facing the windows. A sign above the characters declared, "Banned Books/What a Shame." Characters in the stocks included Harry Potter, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Red Hiding Hood and Max from Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. Mannino, the recipient of this year's Lucile Micheels Pannell Award, told PW that one of the factors cited in awarding Halfway Down the Stairs this prestigious award was last year's display.
This year, Mannino intends to create a window display around the word "freedom" and incorporate the logo created for ABFFE by Linda Brick, who has worked at Halfway Down the Stairs for 13 years. (The "Freadom" design was introduced to great acclaim at BEA last spring.) She and Mannino envision literary characters being held behind bars behind the logo. "It's the most wonderful educational process for people," Mannino said. "People come in to the store and ask why certain books are being censored. Some people without a sense of irony even come in and want to know why the store is banning certain books! It's a wonderful opportunity for us to discuss the First Amendment with customers. The discussions the banned book displays inspire are the best part of it." One construction worker from Ohio came into the store and wanted to buy every book in the Banned Books Week window display. He wanted to give the books to his granddaughter, because, he declared, "If these are censored books, they must be really good."
Banned Books Week reinforces her faith in the American people, Mannino says. "They really care about their liberties. They care about having the freedom to read books they want to read—especially during these troubling times."
Tattered Has It Covered
Denver's Tattered Cover takes the celebration of Banned Books Week very seriously, according to general manager Matt Miller. Using the kit supplied by ABFFE and the ALA, the bookstore places its Banned Books displays on the landings between the floors of the multi-level store. The store enlarges the logo and has used barbed wire and chains in past displays. One year, store personnel mounted an enlarged photo of the Tattered Cover bookstore taken when it moved into its current location. Shelves and tables in the photo were empty of books, demonstrating the result of censorship. The store also sells Banned Books Week T-shirts, posters and pins.
The Tattered Cover sponsors other activities to celebrate Banned Books Week, make people think about the First Amendment and, of course, bring people into the store. One is an ABFFE fundraiser on September 20 that will feature James McBride, award-winning composer, saxophonist and author of The Color of Water. McBride will discuss the writing process, touching on issues of race and identity, using events from his childhood and his own life as examples. After accompanying himself on the piano during the presentation, McBride and his 10-piece band will perform jazz and R&B tunes for the rest of the evening. All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit ABFFE. For the last three years, the Tattered Cover has also co-sponsored with the Colorado Freedom of Expression an essay contest open to Colorado students age 13 to 18 who write an original essay on the First Amendment and its relationship to books. The winner receives $75; second place receives $50; and third place, $25. In addition, the first-place winner's school library receives $200 to purchase books, and all three winners are invited to read their essays at an event at the Tattered Cover.
Miller noted an extra urgency about the subject of banned books. "I think Banned Books Week is important, taking a week each year to raise awareness about the issue—though we at the Tattered Cover feel especially strong about it all year long! This year, issues around the Patriot Act and pending legislation make it more important than ever before to make the public aware of what's at stake."