Step into the way-back machine, all the way to the year 2010. It was my first year at Cal Poly and the first time Kennedy Library celebrated Banned Books Week. Because our celebration was new, when someone had a question about the display they were encouraged to come talk to me. Every night at 10pm when I walked in the door, several students at the front desk were ready to yell at me, outraged that we were banning books!
Not banning books
For the record, we were not banning books. Banned Books Week is all about raising awareness that censorship is real and still happens even today. Now more than ever, we have to stand up for our privacy rights, the freedom to read and the free access to information.
The Present: This year’s Banned Books Week happens to coincides with my last week at Kennedy Library. I’m so thankful that I’m here for one more Banned Books Week go-round.
This year’s street art theme grew from our outreach materials, which were inspired by the pop-art movement. It seemed natural that once we had an underground art concept that we needed to feature our Moore Collection of Underground Comix.
Here you can see the work of student designer Matt Rice (GRC ’14).
Moore Collection of Underground Comix
It seemed natural that once we had a street art concept that we needed to feature the Moore Collection of underground comics from the 1960s that we have in Special Collections. Since the beginning, comic books have always been the target of would-be censors because popular themes include feminism, civil rights, LGBT rights, abortion, drug legalization, and the Vietnam War.
You can view the Moore Collection of Underground Comix in Special Collections on the fourth floor and see a few of the covers in our second floor display this week.
The Future: Who knows what the future will hold for Banned Books Week. Last year there were 464 reported challenges to books all over the U.S. If all those dystopian novels I read have a glimmer of truth to them, it will probably get worse before it gets better. The only thing we can do as a community is stand up to censorship, celebrate the free exchange of ideas and information and encourage everyone to read and learn every day.
My top ten favorite banned books
If you are looking forward to celebrating your freedom to read, here is a list of my top ten favorite banned books. Last year I read almost 70 banned books, so I am an expert! I recommend them to you in no particular order.
- Looking for Alaska by John Green
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
- A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
- And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Anything by Judy Blume.
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry by Mildred Taylor