Saddleback College is one of hundreds of colleges and libraries across the nation to advertise Banned Book Week, the annual event celebrated nationally since 1982, from Sept. 28 to Oct.3. This is part of a campaign by the American Library Association to remind patrons of their “right to read.”
For college students, displaying banned books in colorful ways whets their appetite to read classics they may never have read.
“It draws attention,” said Ana Maria Cobos, Saddleback’s Circulation Librarian. “Within a couple hours, the books were being checked out. The red signs reading ‘banned’ and yellow caution tape really work. It does draw attention.”
Books such as “The Catcher in Rye,” “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “The Great Gatsby,” “The Kite Runner” and other classics that have been challenged or banned are now accessible to students who may have never been exposed in the Learning Resource Center’s second and third floor.
“Looking down the list, we are looking for things that are just so ridiculous,” said Cobos. “Like ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ These are classics that most of us would recognize and just wonder, ‘that’s a classic, why would it have been banned at one time or another?”
Books are usually challenged or banned for many reasons most notably for their offensive language, violence, sexually explicit or they may be unsuitable for the age group, according to the American Library Association.
Parents fight to protect the innocence of their children, but are these efforts to condemn freedom of expression justifiable?
“It’s all about choice, said Cobos. “Why restrict choices. You can make your own choices. You can make your own decisions. Why impose those decisions on somebody else who might have a different need or different perspective?”
Jacob Williams, Saddleback’s Writing Center Coordinator and Professor of English at Saddleback College, on top of reading a scandalous book to celebrate this week, discusses this issue in his English IA class by coming in with a list of the most commonly banned or challenged books over the past decade and discuss the parent’s rationales. He also encourages his students to see the display. (He has yet to know if any students listened to his recommendation).
“I think too often we focus on trying to shield people from things,” said Williams. “We forget that these books, movies or these poems reflect a lot of real experiences that our students and people experience.”
It ultimately is a disservice to deprive students from the chance to engage in any material, even the uncomfortable readings that deal with the ugly side of this world, readings that deal with important matters.
“If a particular book is provoking this kind of moral or intellectual outrage or fear from parents or from students then that book is doing something good,” said Williams. “It’s laughable books like Harry Potter get challenged. When you look at the books in this country that seem to panic people they are the books that are ethically, morally, intellectually challenging and demanding. And I think it’s a good thing.”
The most uncomfortable books featuring inappropriate language and imagery not accepted today are still instructional and worth reading if only to discuss that. It gives students the chance to talk about the problem in hand.
After all, as American author Isaac Asimov once said, “Any book worth banning is a book worth reading.”
Stephanie Torres, who is a freshman studying business at Saddleback, couldn’t imagine not be able to escape from the stresses of life and launch herself into some of her favorite, albeit challenged books, like Harry Potter, a book she was shocked to hear is one of the most-challenged book in the last decade.
“At some point we have to grow up and learn what’s out there,” Torres said. “A parent can’t protect us for the rest of our lives. How would be able to learn and grow if they won’t let us?”
The success of Banned Book Week lies not only in the passion of future generations to read and defend banned books, but also to create their own thought-provoking literature to be experienced in the future.