UT banned books event celebrates freedomWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
The University of Toledo is celebrating the freedom to read with its 15th annual Banned Books Week Vigil on Oct. 18 and 19. The American Library Association (ALA) helped start Banned Books Week 30 years ago. The national week was Sept. 30-Oct. 6.
Paulette Kilmer, a UT professor of communications, started UT’s version 15 years ago after observing another banned books event put on by the American Civil Liberties Union. The event started out small but last year, about 350 people attended.
“[The vigil] has really just grown. We have been really fortunate and a lot of people help us and see the value in us, so it’s very much a community endeavor,” Kilmer said.
On Oct. 18, several volunteer speakers will discuss topics of their choosing at the free event on the third floor of Sullivan Hall. This year, UT’s banned books week event was expanded to include two days of activities. From 7-9 p.m. Oct. 19, Alan Kitty, a Mark Twain impersonator, will present on the author in Libbey Hall. Tickets are $15 for general admission, $25 for two people, $100 for a table of eight and $7.50 for students. To purchase, visit www.utoledo.edu/boxoffice or call (419) 530-2375. The Ohio Humanities Council helped sponsor this new event. Twain’s book “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is one of the most banned books ever, according to the ALA.
The book was written for adults, not children, Kilmer said.
“It’s a very early and serious consideration of racism,” she said. “When [Twain] wrote it, he was making all kinds of statements about the injustice of racism.”
Kilmer is passionate about the event’s theme, “Celebrate the Freedom to Read.”
“We don’t all have to agree on what’s great literature or not. What we need to do is keep an open mind,” she said.
Glenn Sheldon, the honors professor for humanities at UT and member of the event’s planning committee, agreed. Reading is a way to learn about things that may be different from our own viewpoints, he said.
“If our viewpoints are not challenged, then we are not ever learning about ourselves and the world that we live in,” he said.
There are many reasons books are banned, Kilmer and Sheldon said.
Kilmer said, “It takes one person, and often that person hasn’t read the book, to get a challenge going or to stir up a community, to even ban a book.”
Most books are banned for kindergarten through 12th-grade students, Sheldon said. These books often deal with topics like domestic violence, rape and homosexuality.
“These are the issues students in K-12 are always dealing with and words and representations of how you survive those experiences put in someone else’s word, for me, are a basic survival technique,” he said.
Some of the books that were banned, restricted or challenged by schools from May 2011-12 include “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote, “Speak” by Laurie Halse Anderson, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky, “Looking for Alaska” by John Green, “Beloved” by Toni Morrison and “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut.
Event sponsors include several UT affiliates, massage therapist Ann Lumbrezer, Barry Bagels, Dunkin’ Donuts, Kroger, New Sins Press, Phoenicia Cuisine and Toledo Free Press. Snacks will be provided throughout the first day of the vigil. There will be a cash bar and light refreshments at “An Evening with Mark Twain.”
The schedule is below:
- 9 a.m.: “Celebrating Reading: Selections from ‘The Princess Bride’”—The UT Writer’s Guild
- 9:30 a.m.: “In the name of Democracy: Resurgence of Censorship in Post-Soviet Eastern Europe” —Arjun Sabharwal, Canaday Center
- 10 a.m.: “From ‘Lucy’ to ‘2 Broke Girls’: TV and Its Cultural Impact,”—David Tucker, UT communications
- 10:30 a.m.: “Google Bombs, SEO and Censorship”— Paul Many, UT communications department
- 11 a.m.: “The War on Women … as Old as History”— Warren Woodbury, Toledo author
- 11:30 a.m.: “Prison Education: What is the Point?”— Renee Heberle, UT political science department
- Noon: Keynote address: “My Favorite Book” — Bill McMillen, UT assistant to the president
- 1 p.m.: “Inequality and Democracy”— Carter Wilson, UT political science department
- 1:30 p.m.: “Book Burning in Nazi Germany”— Larry Wilcox and Justin Pfeifer, UT history department
- 2 p.m.: “Grey Matter” — Ben Pryor, vice provost for Academic Program Development
- 2:30 p.m.: “Jeopardy!”— Vincent D. Scebbi, editor in chief at The Independent Collegian
- 3 p.m.: “Avoiding the Echo Chamber: The Benefit of Dissenting Opinion” — Sarah Ottney, Toledo Free Press managing editor
- 3:30 p.m.: “Thomas Jefferson’s Bible: The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth”— Tom Barden, dean of UT Honors College
- 4 p.m.: “Babes in Pornland: The New Pornography Industry”— Sharon Barnes, UT women’s and gender studies department
- 4:30 p.m. “Debased Ditties and Songs that Suffered Censorship” — Ed Lingan, UT theatre and film department and Risa Cohen, music specialist
For more information, visit www.ala.org/bbooks.