Toni Morrison, J.K. Rowling, Judy Blume, John Green.
These authors are some of the most banned or challenged writers in the United States. Their stories have consistently make the list of books some people want be kept from others – a lot of times, kids.
Every year since 1982 when it was founded in response to a sudden uptick in challenges to books, Banned Books Week has brought attention to these challenges, and according to the event’s website, “highlights the value of free and open access to information.”
The front windows of Maria’s have been taken over by a display of banned books. Inside, banned and challenged books are displayed throughout; on the ends of shelves, staff members have grouped books by the top five reasons for bans/challenges. One display, labeled “Contradicts Community of Religious Beliefs,” features “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn (“Un-American leftist propaganda”); “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (“References to occultism and spiritualism”); and Allen Gunsberg’s “Howl” (“Descriptions of homosexual acts”).
Virginia Cassel, community relations manager at Maria’s, said staff members have added bookmarks to the books explaining the reasons for the challenges. Banned and challenged books are also marked on the shelves with a bookmark.
She said good can come from Banned Books Week.
“I think it’s a great way to get people to read more and broaden their horizons and just realize that there’s some crazy stuff going on between the covers that they can have access to that people in other countries might not, or that for a while was banned for a specific group of people,” she said.
Cassel said her list of favorite banned or challenged books are: “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster (illustrated by Jules Feiffer); “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath; “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” by Tom Wolfe; “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez; and “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemmingway.
Durango Public Library has been featuring book displays this month so people can see what is being challenged across the U.S., said Sandy Irwin, the library’s director.
She said the library does not receive many complaints about what it offers.
“What’s great about our community is that I haven’t found that people like to impose their own reading choices upon others,” she said, adding that the library – and libraries in general – strive to show all points of view regardless of personal belief systems. “We do try to show all sides of an issue, and that’s something that I think is important in our country, that you can access that.”
Irwin said it is OK to explore and learn about other cultures and parts of society.
“If we all lived in our own little bubble and didn’t learn about other things, we’ll just keep a narrow viewpoint of the world, and you really should just be OK with opening up and allowing other people to do that, too,” she said. “That’s a big part about censorship: It’s not up to you to make those decisions for somebody else; it’s up to individuals to make decisions for themselves and for their families. If you don’t like it, somebody else might, so that’s OK.”