Banned Books Week runs from Sept. 27 to Oct. 3 of this year. Considering everything going on at the moment, Dakota Days, midterms, the constant loom of COVID-19, it’s easy to forget about seemingly ‘random’ celebrations such as Banned Books Week.
So what is Banned Books Week? Banned Books Week is a week annually noted and celebrated at the end of September that brings awareness to the freedom of literature as well as books that have been requested to be ‘banned’ from places such as schools, libraries, or bookstores.
Every year, the American Library Association, or ALA, publishes an updated list of books that have been challenged in the past year. The purpose of the week is to celebrate free and open access to information without any censorship. This year’s theme: “Censorship is a dead end. Find your freedom to read!” (ALA).
So why does Banned Books Week matter? Not only is it a celebration of freedom in literature, but freedom to tell stories. Many readers, librarians, teachers and booksellers reflect on their favorite books that have made the list to be ‘banned’. Can you imagine a world without The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas or Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling?
Many of these books are contested due to the nature of the story, subject matter or language used within its pages, which all vary in complexity and severity.
The Banned Books Week website states, “By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship.”
How did I choose to celebrate Banned Books Week? Not only do I try to educate those around me about the celebration, checking in on the contested books of the past year, I also spend time rereading various books that made the list.
This year I decided to read Looking for Alaska by John Green, challenged for its depiction of drug and alcohol use within the book, and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, which was challenged for the topic of teen suicide. By rereading these books, I feel that I am taking a stand against censorship and acknowledging stories and characters who need to be heard.
What can you do to acknowledge Banned Books Week? The American Library Association has a great website, bannedbooksweek.org, that highlights more information and a complete list of challenged books.
Take some time to see if your favorite books are on there, maybe check them out at the I.D. Week’s Library or the Vermillion Public Library. Share them with a friend or just have a conversation about them. Celebrate the freedom to express ideas and stories, even the ones that seem unorthodox or unpopular.