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All About Banned Books Week
By Heather Faulhefer
Monday, July 29, 2019
[This portion has been reposted from Ingram's blog.]
Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark
Where would we be without stories? Our own stories shape our experience, while the stories of others broaden it. We might relate through common ground, but we develop empathy as we tread through uncommon ground. Books can be vehicles to new experiences, bringing us to places we haven’t visited, people we haven't met, paths we’ve never walked.
And yet, censorship has dogged the written word for most of its history. Libraries have experienced it since ancient times and the invention of the printing press in the 15th century created a seemingly greater need for regulation. One of the first official printed banned books lists emerged in the 15th century, the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, or The Index of Prohibited Books, created by Pope Paul IV and abolished in 1966. The rise of newspapers pushed censorship into new territory as did the creation of postal services throughout the world.
Fortunately, for as long as there has been censorship, there have been efforts to counter it. The story of Banned Books Week begins in 1975, with a group of students determined to exercise their freedom to read. New York parents complained about the content of some of their school library books – among them, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and Langston Hughes’ Best Short Stories by Negro Writers—and the New York school board removed the books from the library in response. A group of five students challenged the ban, arguing that the books were removed because they were deemed offensive by some, not because they lacked educational value. The case made its way to the Supreme Court and the students gained support from libraries, bookstores, and free expression organizations across the country. In 1982, the Supreme Court overruled the ban, determining that school officials were not allowed to ban books due to their content.
Challenging the surge of book banning taking place in bookstores, libraries, and schools, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) showcased the banned books involved in the case in cages at the 1982 BookExpo America trade show. From that platform, Banned Books Week began.
Banned Books Week has proven to be a much-needed celebration and awareness-raising avenue, as wherever censorship is present, it still presents a threat. Limiting what a person can read limits their experience and their connection to others. Without the intellectual freedom to discover and explore new points of view, they are left in the darkness of ignorance.
Keep the Light On
Booksellers shine a light into that darkness as they put more stories into the hands of more readers, advocate for the freedom to read, and offer safe and inclusive spaces to broaden the mind. They stock their shelves with a diverse range of ideas—some that might be unorthodox or unpopular—and leave it to their customers to decide what to explore. Lightbulbs go on.
We support the continued effort of booksellers to stand up and speak out against censorship and to make their bookstores places of lively and important discussions. Together, we can make Banned Books Week 2019 shine!
Banned Books Week 2019: The Essentials
What: A seven-day celebration of our freedom to read buoyed by a national alliance of diverse organizations with a shared mission of education and advocacy against book censorship.
When: Every year during the last week in September
View the Official Website: https://bannedbooksweek.org
Download Promotional Tools: https://bannedbooksweek.org/promotional-tools/