Commemorating Banned Books Week with EDSA

This year, Banned Books Week is from Sept. 23 until Sept. 29. For those of you who don’t know, Banned Books Week is an annual movement that raises awareness on banned and challenged books; most importantly, this week also celebrates our freedom and right to read, as well as our right to access information. Yesterday, September 25, the English Department Student Association, also known as EDSA, commemorated the week by offering a presentation about banned books and hosting an event full of fun activities.

 

The presentation was held in CH-326 at 10:30 a.m. As soon as I entered, I was greeted by smiles from the key speakers, Mildred M. Vargas and Edcel J. Cintron. They began with their first activity, a game called ‘Which Banned Book am I?’, this was where our educational journey commenced. We were all shocked to know that some of our beloved classic children’s books, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Lorax, and Where the Wild Things Are were all banned.

 

(Mildred M. Vargas and Edcel J. Cintron)

 

The presenters proceeded by explaining why and how books are banned. A ban begins with a challenge, which is when someone makes a complaint (it can be either verbal or written) about a book, and if the challenge is successful, then it becomes banned. This leads to the book being removed from schools and public libraries. Books can be banned for many reasons, but they’re mostly challenged because parents don’t think the information their kids are reading is age-appropriate (if appropriate at all). Thing is, books aren’t the only items that can be censored; magazines, games, databases, and programs can also be suppressed. Some novels, like Looking for Alaska by John Green and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, were banned because of their language and sexual content. Other books, like I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, were banned because they deal with gender identity and LGBTQ issues.To Kill a Mockingbird has been banned throughout the years for violence and the use of the N-word. Even Harry Potter was banned for its use of magic and witchcraft.

 

At the end of the presentation, Edcel J. Cintron and Mildred M. Vargas handed out blank papers and crayons and encouraged us to draw a comic strip of something that could be banned. Afterwards, I headed to the adjacent classroom, where EDSA members had prepared and decorated six round tables with various recreational activities to celebrate Banned Books Week. I looked around and couldn’t decide what I wanted to do first and so, guided by my bookworm instincts, I walked to the tables that exhibited books; one of them displayed banned books and the other had texts from the English Department’s Caribbean Literature lending library. After, I got my picture taken at the photo booth; in the Polaroid, I’m behind bars: I’m guilty of reading banned books.  

 

The two most crowded tables at the event were the ones that allowed us to make our own blackout poetry and six-word short stories. These tables, along with one where Sábanas Literary Magazine was being promoted and another where guests could write a letter to their favorite author, opened a creative safe space for students to express themselves.

 

(Some of the six-worded short stories that students wrote)

 

While I read some of the letters and poems on the tables and scoured through the issues of Sábanas Literary Magazine, I was reminded of this year’s slogan for Banned Books Week: Banning Books Silences Stories. It is because of this that organizations, like the American Library Association and EDSA, raise awareness about banned books and celebrate our freedom to read; as Andrea Valdés, co-president of EDSA, commented: “It’s important to commemorate why and how books get censored since that’s against our pursuit of knowledge and knowledge itself.”

(Promo found at https://bannedbooksweek.org/)