This week marked the 35th Anniversary for Banned Books Week.
The American Library Association sheds light on the freedom of speech as an ongoing expression of author’s rights and works.
The event happens every year from Sept. 24-30. This was the first year that the university paid tribute to the week by hosting their own banned book reading.
Sponsored by numerous professors from the English, Theatre and Foreign Language departments, these professors met to read their excerpts from certain banned books.
“Banned book week really celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints,” English Professor Dr. Michael Berntsen said.
The titles read from at this event included: Kate Chopin’s “The Awakening,” Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita,” William S. Burrough’s “Naked Lunch,” Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” John Green’s “Looking for Alaska,” Jeannette Walls “A Glass Castle” and Parnell, Richardson and Cole’s “And Tango Makes Three.”
These titles have been banned for various controversial viewpoints on topics including feminism, gay marriage and drug use.
The English department’s Dr. Autumn Lauzon opened with the first book of the night, “The Awakening,” which was published in 1899. It was focused on, and criticized for its “frank depiction of women’s sexuality, marriage, and freedom for independence,” Lauzon said. “The book is now celebrated as one of the earliest and most revolutionary feminist novels in American literature.”
In addition, the banned book reading covered books highlighting pedophilia as Hannah Baggott read excerpts from “Lolita.”
“I come from a family that banned Harry Potter, from a church that held book burnings of that highly publicized text,” Baggott said. “Lolita” was first published in 1955, “by a pornographic press and banned for its obscenity and pedophilia.”
“I believe that no book should be banned. Linguistically this novel is brilliant,” she said.
However, pedophilia was not the climax of the reading. In 1959, Williams Burroughs published “Naked Lunch” which centered around “obscenities surrounding human nature,” reader Dr. Walt Lewallen said. The novel heavily focused on drug addiction and homosexuality.
“I think it’s terrible that books are allowed to be banned,” Professor Aaron Cole said as he introduced “Beloved” to the audience.
While Cole stated that he does “believe ‘Beloved’ should be approached with caution and trigger warnings, Morrison manages to cut deep to the root of the ways in which we are still haunted by the institution of slavery in this country. Something that must be openly acknowledged and addressed before we can fully fulfill the promise of equality that is asserted in our constitution.”
“Beloved” is believed to be banned for its sexually explicit content and sexual violence.
Predecessor to “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Paper Towns,” “Looking for Alaska” was based on John Green’s experiences as a boarding school student.
The novel “made the list of most-challenging books for 2015 due to profanity and sexually explicit scenes,” according to the Banned Books Reading Program. Dr. Peter Grimes read excerpts from this banned novel.
“The Glass Castle,” a New York Times Best-Seller, was introduced as Dr. Cindy Miecznikowski read her favorite excerpts from the novel.
“It’s one thing to think about works of imagination being banned, right? Somebody, some cranky person said that’s a work that didn’t need to be created. It’s another thing to ban nonfiction, I think,” Dr. Cindy said.
Some “concerned parents in the school districts of Pennsylvania, Missouri, Kansas and California” challenged the book on the grounds of including “profanity, criticism of Christianity, and accounts of sexual abuse,” according to the Banned Books Reading Program.
Ending the night, Dr. Michael Berntsen read banned picture book “And Tango Makes Three.”
“This was banned for promoting the gay agenda,” Berntsen stated.
The book is based on a true story as Roy and Silo, two male Penguins, are the center of the theme of the story – breaking traditional family values.