The issue of censorship is the primary focus during Banned Books Week, an annual event at the University of South Florida Polytechnic.
“Discussions, reading aloud and movies filled the week and brought to light both the perils of censorship and the depth of human experience that can be found in literature.” – Catherine Lavallee-Welch, USF Polytechnic library director and coordinator of the campus event.
“The response was great this year from throughout the USF Polytechnic community and we had some very good discussions about censorship, both past and present.”
Currently in its fourth year on campus, Banned Books Week is sponsored by the USF Polytechnic Library, with help from the Student Government for refreshments, and aims to introduce audiences to the issues and challenges of censorship.
This year’s central book discussion centered on “And Tango Makes Three” (by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole). Published in 2005, it tells the true story of two male penguins who hatch and parent a baby chick at New York’s Central Park Zoo. The children’s book has raised debates on same-sex marriage, adoption and homosexuality in animals since being published.
The week-long event also featured two films: “1984” (by George Orwell), one of the most powerful warnings ever issued against the dangers of a totalitarian society with its absolute political authority; and “Shut Up and Sing,” a documentary on the country music group Dixie Chicks in the wake of singer Natalie Maines’ anti-George W. Bush statement at a 2003 concert. Discussions of “1984” were lead by Dr. Ruth Price, and discussions of “Shut Up and Sing” were lead by Dr. John Lennon.
Members of the faculty, staff and students read aloud excerpts from books that have upset censors over the years, including the following:
“Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire” (JK Rowling) read by Stacey Lung (staff)
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (Maya Angelou) read by Patty Martinez (student)
“To Kill a Mockingbird” (Harper Lee) read by Diane Fulkerson (library faculty)
“Invisible Man” (Ralph Ellison) read by Dr. Cynthia Patterson (faculty)
“Totally Joe” (James Howe) read by Dr. Paul Terry (faculty)
“Diary of a Young Girl” (Anne Frank) read by Suzanne Reardon-Mullhall (student/part-time staff)
The Bible read by Marlene Eplin (student)
“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” (Sherman Alexie) read by Catherine Lavallee-Welch (library faculty)
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (Stephen Chbosky) read by Sara Martinez (student)
“Nickel & Dimed” (Barbara Ehrenreich) read by Dr. John Selsky (faculty)
“The Kite Runner” (Khaled Hosseini) read by Dr. Daryl Manullang (faculty)
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (Maya Angelou) read by Monica Roberts (staff)
“Slaughterhouse-Five” (Kurt Vonnegut) read by Amy VanMiddlesworth (library staff)
Together the USF Libraries provide access to more than 2.2 million print volumes and an extensive collection of serials and online resources including approximately 32,423 journal subscriptions, 650 electronic reference sources, more than 500,000 e-books, and 148 digital collections.