Photo Gallery | Booksellers, libraries fight censorship during Banned Books Week
Pedestrians are stopping in their tracks to look at a Midtown book store's display window wrapped in red paper with bold black words that say "Banned Books Week." Burke's Books joins active readers nationwide in raising awareness about book censorship and celebrating the freedom to read.
With a box of matches pulled out from a book, the cover art of the 60th anniversary edition of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 reminds consumers about the dangers of censorship. Burke's chose the acclaimed novel set in a dystopian future for their theme title. Several miles away at The University of Memphis, the library staff has picked several other well-known banned or challenged books for public readings.
"What you choose to read is an important right and cause we need to protect," said Dean of University Libraries Dr. Sylverna Ford. "The American Library Association started the national effort to draw attention to the fact that everyone has the right to read."
The ALA along with American Booksellers Association started Banned Books Week in 1982; the University of Memphis began to participate eight years ago.
Ford says the university wanted to make students mindful that censorship is still an issue. Many community members outside of campus will also sit in during the readings. The university library selected a dozen titles to read in the Ned R. McWherter Library rotunda this week including The Great Gatsby, Slaughterhouse Five, and Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Books are challenged or banned because certain readers think the language is too strong or the content is deemed inappropriate for a general audience, or, as Ford says, maybe they just don't like it.
"School groups find something they don't like the book ... They don't like the particular lifestyle in the book. Anyone can challenge a book and get it removed solely based on their dislike – those books will be on the list," said Ford. "Everyone should have the right [to decide] what's appropriate for them to read. This is not something a community should decide."
University art students are creating digital images around the theme of censorship and the freedom to read. A select few will be posted on the library's Facebook and in the library.
Memphis public libraries across the Mid-South are asking residents to try and read a banned or challenged book in observation of the week-long event.
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