On Wednesday, September 26, 2018, the IUP Libraries, in conjunction with the English Department,
welcomed members of the IUP community to celebrate Banned Books Week with a Community Read Out.
The event was introduced
by Lauren Gaynord (a PhD candidate in the Composition and Literature program), who helped organize the event. She introduced graduate students Nedrick Patrick, Sarah Bradshaw, and Matthew Stumpf (pictured) who served as the MCs of the event.
During the event, several faculty members
and students read excerpts from some prominent banned books such as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, read by President Mike Driscoll, and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, read by Yaw Asamoah, dean of Humanities
and Social Sciences. The dean of the IUP Libraries, Jan Guyden (pictured), read an excerpt from Neil Gaiman’s lecture he gave in 2012 for the reading agency.
Guyden noted that many of Gaiman’s own books have been banned. In the excerpt, Gaiden talks about the importance of imagining and making a difference. He says: “It is easy to pretend that nobody can change anything, that we are in a world in which society
is huge and the individual is less than nothing... But the truth is, individuals change their world over and over, individuals make the future, and they do it by imagining that things can be different.”
A student speaker at the event that stood out was Darren Frederick, a MA student in the Public Affairs Program who is also a part of the IUP Free Speech Project.
Darren read from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a Dystopian novel that imagines a world where the banning of books is the norm. Darren painted a vivid picture of Bradbury’s world where books are regularly burned, and firemen are the ones
starting the fires and not putting them out. This particular work highlights the point of the event, which is to ask why these books are being banned and our voices are being censored.
The event closed with the same speaker who opened it, Lauren Gaynord. This time, Gaynord read an excerpt from David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing. Gaynord noted that this book has been perpetually on the list since its release in 2013. Gaynord feels
that the book is not offensive in any way, but rather it is banned because it tells the story of gay characters. Gaynor ended the event with the final lines of the excerpt: “We do not start as dust. We do not end as dust. We make more than dust. That’s
all we ask of you. Make more than dust.”
Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community—librarians,
booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types—in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
First observed in 1982, Banned Books Week reminds Americans not to take the freedom to read for granted. At number eight on the top 10 banned books of 2017 was Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, which was adapted into a film set to release next month.
At number one sat Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. which has had much protest for its themes of suicide since the Netflix series based on the book was released last year.