“Why would anyone want to ban books?”

I read banned booksSigns posted across the Queens University of Charlotte campus this week read, “The following books have been banned until further notice,” listing classic titles in literature: Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, and Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, to name a few.

On Wednesday, faculty, staff, and students from all departments, majors, and offices gathered to read and reflect on these works and their role in a society which values the freedom of expression.

Every fifteen minutes for 7 hours, a new banned title was chosen and the oration began anew. The sounds and syllables of Sylvia Plath, Toni Morrison, and Harper Lee filled the hallways of Trexler Student Center amidst the usual noise of the venue. And from time to time,  students, diners, or passers-by stopped to listen and to wonder, “Who would want to ban a book? And why?”

Without prompting, students, like those in my Media Aesthetics class, pondered aloud the merits of censorship, propriety and choice — in books, movies, and digital media forms. In our unexpected classroom discussion, one student suggested that censorship and secrecy had no place in American society, while another posited that, from time to time, such action might serve the common good.

For my part, I led a discussion on liberties when it naturally arose in class. And I spent my fifteen minutes reading from 1984, by George Orwell:

The process of continuous alteration was applied not only to newspapers, but to books, periodicals, sounds tracks, cartoons, photographs — to every kind of literature or documentation which might hold any political or ideological significance. Day by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up to date … nor was any item of news, or any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed as often as was necessary.  (chapter 1, section IV, para. 7)

In the meantime, critical thinking flourished. Citizenship was pondered. And the American freedoms of speech, press, religion, assembly, and petition were debated and affirmed. All because some communication majors, some faculty members, some staff members and some librarians decided it would be a good idea to read books.

Queens University @QueensUniv tweets about Banned Books Readout

Note: Queens University of Charlotte did not ban books. The Knight School of Communication, the Everett Library, and Lambda Pi Eta National Honor Society collaborated to support the American Library Association’s (ALA) Banned Book Week, September 25-October 2, 2010.  According to the ALA website, events held during Banned Books Week “highlight the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted bannings of books across the United States.”

3 comments

  1. I participated in some of this activity in Trexler. I loved the idea and noticed some other emotions flooding over me; anger, and misbelief for the most part. The title of this blog post ran through my mind many times. Why would anyone want to try to ban books?

    I walked into trexler after a book about Gay Penguins in the Central Park Zoo was read. I did not hear the story, but i wanted to know more about the book so I looked it up myself.

    Of course I think this book is banned because it goes against many religious views and the fact that it is a childrens book. Then the anger sat in again. I understand if someone does not like the ideas set in this book. It is probably their belief system…but then again they can choose not to read it or not to read it to their children. Who says when you walk into a library you have to read The Gay Penguins book? Probably nobody.

  2. Banning books is a touchy subject, and I think we can all agree. There are many books that have been banned that I couldn’t imagine, like Tarzan. Tarzan was banned because Jane was sleeping with Tarzan in the jungle and they weren’t married. People overreact and overanalyze. Simply put, we have the freedom of making our own choices, if a book is offensive, do not read it.

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