Throughout history, book burnings have represented the destruction of knowledge, democracy and freedom.
Whether it was the destruction of reading material in America in the 1950s due to the Red Scare or the restriction of books and other media in US schools in recent years, literary censorship is still widespread today.
To celebrate this fundamental freedom, September 18-24 is known as Banned Books Week and celebrates Americans’ right to read.
The City of Port Townsend issued a proclamation during its Monday council meeting to reaffirm its support for Banned Books Week and the constitutionally protected freedom to read and consume media that may be viewed as unorthodox, controversial or unpopular.
In its proclamation, the city said, “Intellectual freedom is essential to sustaining a free society and a creative culture.”
“Fear of censorship prompts authors wishing to avoid controversy to practice self-censorship, thereby limiting our access to new ideas and voices,” the proclamation continued. “Americans can be confident that they will exercise critical judgment, make their own choices about what they read and believe, and accept the responsibilities that come with that freedom.”
Banned Book Week was created in 1982 after a surge in book bans and challenges in schools, libraries, and bookstores across the United States.
“The 10 most challenged books of 2021 were primarily by or about Black or LGBTQIA+ people,” said Melody Sky Weaver, library director at Port Townsend Public Library, during the council meeting. “I think this year is a very fitting theme. It is: books unite us and censorship divides us.”
This year’s top 3 most contested or banned books in America are Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison and All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson. All three pieces of literature were challenged or restricted for their LGBTQ+ content.
“The very best libraries are mirrors, windows and doors, which means you see yourself represented as a mirror in the library collections. You see people who have had experiences other than your own as the window and ultimately the door that brings us together,” Weaver said.
To learn more about Banned Books Week, go to www.bannedbooksweek.org.