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ABFFE Prepares for Banned Books Week 2014
ABFFE is gearing up for its celebration of Banned Books Week (September 21-27). This year's BBW celebrations will feature comics and graphic novels, shining light on this still misunderstood form of storytelling. “New art forms always frighten people, particularly when they appeal strongly to kids. Comics were gutted by censors in the 1950s, and graphic novels have also faced resistance,” ABFFE President Chris Finan said.
Recently, the acclaimed memoir Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, has been the flashpoint in a university funding controversy in South Carolina, while last year Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, faced an attempted ban in the Chicago Public Schools. Graphic novels continually show up on the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual list of frequently challenged books. The current list includes Dav Pilkey's Captain Underpants in the top spot and Jeff Smith's series Bone in tenth place.
Banned Books Week celebrates the freedom to read by encouraging readouts, displays, and community activities designed to raise awareness of the ongoing threat of censorship. Bannedbooksweek.org is a hub for information about how individuals and institutions can become involved in celebrating this important event. The website also includes resources and activities provided by event sponsors.
For the second year, ABFFE will partner with the Ingram Content Group to distribute to booksellers Banned Books Week kits that contain everything needed to create a display. Last year, kits were sent to the first 150 bookstores that ordered a minimum number of banned or challenged titles from Ingram. Because the kits were snapped up in the first few days of the promotion, the number will be doubled this year. Details will be announced soon.
Banned Books Week is sponsored by ABFFE, the American Booksellers Association, American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Freedom to Read Foundation, National Association of College Stores, National Coalition Against Censorship, National Council of Teachers of English, PEN American Center, and Project Censored.
Here's to Banned Books Week 2013!
Audience at Paradise Banned:
Poetry Readings From Banned Books which was hosted by Housing Works
Bookstore and Cafe)
Bookstores proved again this year
that celebrating Banned Books Week (BBW) is both fun and good for business.
ABFFE joined Manhattan's Housing Works Bookstore and the PEN American
Center to present Paradise Banned: Poetry Readings from Banned Books.
Over 100 New Yorkers attended, hippies and hipsters alike, and enjoyed banned
poems read by contemporary poets, including Timothy Donnelly and Aimee Herman.
Housing Works also created a beautiful window display that featured banned
chapbooks as well as perennial BBW classics such as Fahrenheit 451. "I
think that it's very important that independent bookstores celebrate Banned Books Week, just
because of that word 'independent,' " Amanda Bullock, Housing Works
director of public programming, explained. "We're in that unique position
to shed light on things like this, and have done it throughout history."
Marshall Reese filmed the event and you can see the videos here.
Many booksellers reported lively
discussions with their customers about censorship and First Amendment issues.
Using promotional material from a BBW kit created by ABFFE and distributed by
Ingram Content Group, bookstores mounted displays of books that led customers
to ask why some of their favorites had banned or challenged.
Rachel Ormiston from Vroman's
Bookstore in Pasadena said that sales have benefited from these discussions
with several banned titles briefly appearing on the store's bestsellers list.
BBW coincided with the opening of Northshire Bookstore's new store in
Saratoga Springs, New York. Northshire's Tara Swahlan said the store's large
display prompted one woman to buy several children's books with the intention
of sending them to a library or school where they had been banned.
For several years the MLRC Institute
has arranged for media lawyers to speak on a variety of free speech issues in
bookstores. In September and October MLRC speakers appeared at Vroman's, Last
Bookstore in Los Angeles, Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati,57th
Street Books in Chicago, Borderland Books in San Francisco andPorter
Square Books in Cambridge, MA. ABFFE's Chris Finan discussed efforts to
censor YA books during a speech sponsored by the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library
at the Indianapolis Public Library.
Booksellers played an important role in celebrating the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week this year. They submitted some of the best videos among the more than 500 submitted for the Internet read-out of banned and challenged titles on YouTube. Bookmans' video was the most watched video with over 17,000 views.
City Lights Bookstore featured some of its famous friends, including store founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti and director John Waters.
For many bookstores Banned Books Week was a community affair. Powell's, in Portland Oregon, engaged local writers by inviting them to read and sign books while Inkwood Books of Tampa, Florida made its read-out an open-mike event filled with books, lattes and raffle prizes.
ABFFE's president Chris Finan participated in Banned Books Week at the local level at the invitation of Maria's Bookshop in Durango, Colorado. He described his experience in a column in Bookselling This Week. Displays of banned books are still the centerpiece of Banned Books Week in most bookstores. The University of Alaska Anchorage Bookstore's display featured a "Ban the Burn" sign above a witch's caldron filled with 'burning' books. Ninth Street Book Shop in Wilmington, Delaware created a beautiful window presentation that centered a "Be Free Read" Statue of Liberty poster in the middle of books labeled "the top 10 most challenged books" (Peter Schertz, Andrea Avantaggio, Chris Finan, Libby Cowles)
Several bookstores took advantage of ABFFE's partnership with the Media Law Resource Center (MLRC) to line up speakers. MLRC members are media attorneys who can speak knowledgeably about First Amendment law and current free speech controversies. They participated in events at Carmichael's of Louisville, Kentucky, Brazos of Houston, Texas, Bound to Read of Atlanta, Georgia and Kings English of Salt Lake City, Utah. These talks are part of the MLRC Institute's First Amendment Speakers Bureau, which is funded by a grant from the Dow Jones Foundation.