When library assistant Michele Wyngard (who together with Kristen Thorp is spearheading Kennedy Library’s Banned Books Week), told me that Stephen Chbosky would be visiting Cal Poly, I confess I squealed. I didn’t just squeal, actually. I squealed and jumped and waved my hands about in shock.
As if it wasn’t obvious enough by my love of working as a student assistant in a library, this reaction should make it eminently clear: I’m a book nerd.
And as a book nerd, I am a huge fan of Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”
Much like the eponymous wallflower of the book, my freshman year of high school I felt odd and out of place. And just like that same wallflower, I made friends with a group of people who had far more life experience than I did.
One day, one of them handed me a copy of Chbosky’s book, and ordered me to read it. I quickly devoured the little novel, which is written as letters from the protagonist to an anonymous friend.
Not only did I find the book well-written, with beautiful, sensitive passages, but I also found a friend and co-conspirator in Charlie, the main character.
Maybe I wasn’t as shy as he was, but we were both not extremely popular and both new to high school, new to a world of sex and drugs and relationships that are infinitely more complicated than we wish, and Charlie’s own candor in the novel helped me to understand and cope with the changes I was facing in my world.
As much as I loved this book, though, it’s easy to see why some people would challenge it.
I’ve never dropped acid, but through Charlie’s eyes, I rode a psychedelic trip up and down. I’ve never discovered a friend was hiding their sexuality from me, but through Charlie’s eyes, I understood keeping secrets for the safety and reputation of others.
That being said, as racy and mature as the content of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” is at times, it should never be banned. It is a beautiful novel that teens and adults can learn from, and had a profound impact on my life personally.
Which brings us back to Chbosky’s talk. I’m doubly excited that he will be visiting Cal Poly because, as an author of one of the top 100 banned books of the last decade, he should understand better than most the importance of observing Banned Books Week and keeping books available.
Chbosky will visit campus on Friday, Oct. 5. He will give a talk, free and open to the public, in the Chumash Auditorium from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., followed by a book signing.
And you can bet I will be sitting right in the front row, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” copy in hand.
— Victoria Billings
The event is co-sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts, English Department, Pride Center, MultiCultural Center and Student Ombuds Services.