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J.D. Salingerâs popular âThe Catcher in the Ryeâ is considered requisite reading by both scholars and literary snobs, and locally, the community came together to read and discuss Sherman Alexieâs work âThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian.â
However, if the censors had their way, those books would have been banned from the shelves of libraries, classrooms and even book stores.
The efforts to ban books such as âCatcherâ and âPart Time Indian,â and ultimately the triumph of the First Amendment, are in focus Sept. 24 through Oct. 1 as the U.S. observes National Banned Books Week.
According to the American Library Association, Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment.
âHeld during the last week of September, Banned Books Week highlights the benefits of free and open access to information while drawing attention to the harms of censorship by spotlighting actual or attempted banning of books across the United States,â the ALA said via press release.
Locally the Inyo County Free Library, Eastside Books and Spellbinder Books are celebrating Banned Books Week by directing readers to some selected works that were banned or contested at one time.
Throughout the week, Spellbinder Books will be offering a display of banned and contested books for youth and adults and a guide as to why each piece was considered controversial.
Among many others, the Spellbinder youth display includes âAn Absolute True Diary of a Part Time Indianâ by Sherman Alexie, which last yearâs Community Reads book and âThe Catcher in the Ryeâ by J.D. Salinger. For adults, Spellbinder is offering âA Brave New Worldâ by Aldous Huxley and âGreat Soul: Mahatma Gandhiâ by Pulitzer Prize-winner Joseph Lelyveld, among many others.
Similarly, Eastside Books, with a vast selection of used works, has a display available highlighting some notable banned books.
While the limited staff working for the Inyo County Free Library and a busy schedule did not provide for any special events or displays, Inyo County Librarian Nancy Masters said local libraries do have a selection of banned and contested books and, as always, residents are invited to check them out.
âThe books featured during Banned Books Week have been targets of attempted bannings,â the ALA said. âFortunately, while some books were banned or restricted, in a majority of cases the books were not banned, all thanks to the efforts of librarians, teachers, booksellers and members of the community to retain the books in the library collections.â
Without those individuals looking out for freedom of expression, many treasured books may not be available.
For example, the display at Spellbinder points out that there was one move to have Shel Silverstienâs collection of poems, âA Light in the Attic,â banned because it âencourages children to break dishes so they wonât have to dry them.â One offended reader also attempted to have Edgar Rice Burroughsâ âTarzanâ banned because âTarzan is âliving in sinâ with Jane.â
Possibly the worst reason anyone ever attempted to have âThe Diary of Anne Frankeâ by Anne Frank removed from the reach of the general public was because âit is a real downer.â
The ALA goes on to say that intellectual freedom â the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if those ideas and information are considered unpopular or unorthodox by some â provides the foundation for Banned Books Week.
âBBW stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints for all who wish to read and access them,â the ALA said. âImagine how many more books might be challenged â and possibly banned or restricted â if librarians, teachers and booksellers across the country did not use Banned Books Week each year to teach the importance of our First Amendment rights and the power of literature, and to draw attention to the danger that exists when restraints are imposed on the availability of information in a free society.â