Published September 24, 2015
What do “The Great Gatsby,” “Where’s Waldo” and “Green Eggs and Ham” have in common? At one point in history, each of these popular books was either banned or challenged.
The list doesn’t end there. Numerous books, from the “great American novels” to well-known children’s stories, have made the literary blacklist, most often for being sexually explicit or contacting offensive language.
More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982, according to the American Library Association. In fact, more than 300 books were challenged in 2014, including Dr. Seuss’ “Hop on Pop” for allegedly promoting violence against fathers.
To celebrate Banned Books Week — an annual awareness campaign held from Sept. 28 through Oct. 3 that celebrates the freedom to read — the UB Libraries will hold its first Read-Out, where students, faculty and staff are invited to share short passages from a banned book of their choice.
The free event will be held at 3 p.m. Sept. 28 in the second floor lobby of Lockwood Library, North Campus. Refreshments will be served.
“The beginning of the semester is the perfect time to remind students not to take their freedom for granted and to embrace their First Amendment rights,” says Laura Taddeo, head of arts, humanities and social sciences in the UB Libraries.
“Even if a challenge or a ban is well-intended, censorship ultimately denies us the ability to think for ourselves.”
The Libraries also will exhibit, through Oct. 31, a selection of banned books in the lobby of Lockwood Library that will feature some recognizable classic and contemporary novels that cover a range of topics, including race, class, gender and religion. All books on display can be checked out for reading.
The display includes several popular titles, among them “Moby Dick,” “Ulysses,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “50 Shades of Grey,” as well as novels from the “Harry Potter,” “Hunger Games” and “Gossip Girl” series.
So far, reaction to the exhibit has been overwhelming positive, says Taddeo, adding that the Libraries had to restock the exhibit after two weeks because all the books were checked out.
“Often when you tell someone a book is banned for strong language or sexual content, their eagerness to read the book increases,” she says. “This is better advertising than labeling a book as one of the best novels of the 20th century.”