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Banned Books Week

On Tuesday, April 19, 1960, parents from Edison High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma demanded the removal of an 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Beatrice Levin, who had assigned The Catcher in the Rye for her students to read.  Published in 1951, J.D. Salinger’s book had been considered controversial from its release; however, Mrs. Levin described the book as “beautiful and moving”.  The book was banned from the required reading list for the school system.  Parents objected to the entire book but in particular to a word they termed vulgar.  Mrs. Levin conceded that it was a vulgar term, however in the way it was used, the word was very appropriate. [The Oklahoman, April 20, 1960, p. 38,]   Mrs. Levin was eventually fired by the Board of Education, but later reinstated.  This was the earliest recorded banning of The Catcher in the Rye. [Lanette MacLeod, “The Censorship History of the Catcher in the Rye,” PNLA Quarterly 39 (Summer 1975): 10.]

This week we are “celebrating” Banned Books Week in the Professional Center Library.

Banned Books Week was begun in 1982 by library activist Judith Krug as a way “to promote the right to read without censorship”.

The underlying principle of Banned Books Week is rooted in the Bill of Rights. When a society begins to control what its citizens read, it creates distrust of the authorities and fellow citizens.  Because of this restriction and control, an undercurrent of resentment and suspicion begins to break down the norms of that society.  Thus, our First Amendment rights which ensure freedom of information are vital to the health of our American culture.  Banned Books Week celebrates that freedom of information and emphasizes our need to keep a close watch on those who attempt to restrict our freedoms.

In the Professional Center Library, we are recognizing Banned Books Week with a display of “banned” (or challenged) books, along with a listing of the 100 most often challenged books in the US and the world.

We would invite you to stop by and share your personal favorite “banned book” on the wall of the Rotunda.

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