Last week, the English department, Torreyson Library and the Alpha Zeta Chi chapter of Sigma Tau Delta promoted the nationally recognized Banned Books Week with events like public readings and banned book giveaways.
Banned Books Week is an event sponsored by the American Library Association in order to raise awareness about censorship and celebrate the freedom to read and the right to free speech.
The event was coordinated by faculty and students, including members of Sigma Tau Delta, the English honors society, and the English Student Society, who set up tables and distributed informational material.
UCA alumna Hannah Hanshaw works for the education and outreach department of the library, helping the English department’s faculty to coordinate the event.
“I also conducted research on the banned books themselves to find out which ones were banned and why,” Hanshaw said.
Torreyson Library had two displays of “challenged” books; a book can be “challenged” by anyone, but not all of them end up banned.
Public readings took place in front of the library from noon to 1 p.m. Sept. 24 and 26, and during x-period Sept. 25 and 27.
Readers also gathered in the Irby Courtyard while students read aloud from books like “The Hate U Give,” “I Am Jazz,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Kite Runner” and “Like Water for Chocolate” that have been read during previous Banned Books events.
English Professor Katherine Willis said the event is important to campus because of UCA’s identity that largely includes celebrating diversity.
“Reaffirming the right and necessity of free reading is a great way to act on that promise to foster diversity,” Willis said.
She said the goal of the event is to address the fact that while everyone has the legal right to read what they please, books, especially in the young-adult genre, are still being challenged.
Torreyson librarian Tamela Smith said books are still being challenged today, and people will go so far as to write complaints in newspaper editorials or attend board meetings to get board members to pull a book.
“Any place where there are books, they can say, ‘We don’t think this is appropriate for you to have in your library and we would like for you to pull it,’” Smith said.
Willis said it’s important for students to understand why these books with complex and uncomfortable topics should be free for reading.
“Encountering different ideas and different people with empathy, and learning to come to your own conclusions, are cornerstones of the college experience,” Willis said.
Willis said more information and photographs can be found on the English department’s Twitter, @English_UCA, while a full list of banned books and more in-depth explanations of Banned Books Week can be found on the American Library Association’s website, ala.org.
Photo by Marley Cash-Powell