Banned Book Week readout at Bird Library brings visibility to challenged books

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The Bird Library’s Banned Book Week on Thursday was standing room only.

The event, hosted by multiple academic departments and programs, gathered Syracuse University students, faculty and alumni to read some of history’s most challenging books, such as The Scarlet Letter and the Bible. Over 20 readers shared passages from a range of books.

“The number you want to remember is 1,651 … the number of titles contested so far this year,” said African American Studies professor Joan Bryant, greeting the audience. “That says something about how meaningful this ad is. The point of a reading is to celebrate the freedom of reading.”

This year’s banned books exhibition, which features work on police shootings and LGBTQ relationships, focused on children’s literature and how banning children’s books can prevent them from understanding the complexities of the world, according to the student assistants who put it together.

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English professor Katherine Kidd read from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, which she teaches in her English class for children’s literature. The book was banned for allegedly promoting witchcraft and being anti-Christian, Kidd said.

Patty Giles, library technician in the Department of Learning and Academic Engagement, also read Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret” by Judy Blume, which is often banned or challenged for its discussions of religion, puberty and sexuality.

“I read it when I was 12,” Giles said. “I bought it and then my mom found it and read it and was very upset with me and threw it away.”

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Two presenters read Todd Parr’s ‘It’s Okay to Be Different’, a picture book that encourages children to embrace their own differences and those around them for who they are.

“I think books are meant to be read over and over again,” said Juan Denzer, a computer science and engineering librarian who read the book for the second time. “I chose this one because I don’t think children should be excluded from listening to books.”

In recent years, the English and African American departments have hosted individual banned book readings. This was the first year that the Department of LGBTQ Studies and the Resource Center worked together to host the event.

“Due to criticism of critical race theory and the banning of books on black history and culture and LGBTQ history, culture and experience, we were keen to work with African American Studies and LGBTQ Studies,” said Coran Klaver, Chair of English Department . “We felt these are the groups most affected by banned books right now.”

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Cristina Hatem, Director of Strategic Marketing & Communications for Libraries, said she hopes attendees will see the importance of this event and understand the history of banned books.

“We wanted to encourage students to really recognize that there is a lot of material that not everyone has access to,” Hatem said. “It’s really important to us to encourage dialogue and conversation about it.”


Contact Shantel: [email protected] | @shantelguzman2

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