Throughout the month of September, an exhibit in the lobby of the Carothers Library will feature banned and challenge literature as part of Banned Books Week.
Banned Books Week began in 1982 and is celebrated on the last week of September by libraries around the world. The week focuses on books that have been request for removal from libraries and schools, or have been banned outright from those establishments.
URI’s Banned Books Week exhibit is curated by humanities reference librarian Jim Kinnie. Kinnie said that requests to remove books from libraries and schools happen for a number of reasons, including explicit language, content and claims that the work is unsuited to the age group it was assigned.
The display features several books, ranging from classics such as James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and Ernest Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”, to lesser known specialist works. Each book in the display has either had a request for removal made against it, or has been banned entirely from a public library or school.
Speaking about the books included in the exhibit, Kinnie said, “I’m always surprised by some titles when I see a list of challenged books, especially the classics. Challenges to “The Great Gatsby”, “The Call of the Wild” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” make me wonder how people can perceive things so differently.”
“Skimming the list of the Top 100 banned or challenged books, I see they are overwhelmingly fiction titles,” said Kinnie. “I’m not sure why, other than the full range of human imagination is explored in fiction and everyone’s sensitivity to the thoughts of others is not the same.”
Each year, the American Library Association lists the ten most challenged or banned books in American schools and libraries.
Most of the titles on the 2013 list are young adult novels, such as Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games,” John Green’s “Looking for Alaska,” and Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian.”
Last year’s list also includes P.D. James’ erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” and Toni Morrison’s 1970 work “The Bluest Eye.”
A section of the exhibit focuses on comic books and graphic novels that have also been banned or challenged in the past, such as Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust drama “Maus” and Alan Moore’s “Watchmen.” The comics section is presented in collaboration with the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit that is a partner in Banned Books Week.
Kinnie said that the University of Rhode Island has never banned a book. However, he gave examples of several challenges and bans in the state of Rhode Island.
Citing information from the Rhode Island Library Association, Kinnie said that Kurt Vonnegut’s 1969 novel “Slaughterhouse-Five” was removed from the required reading list in the Coventry School District in 2000.
Another book, “It Stops With Me: Memoir of a Canuck Girl” by Charleen Touchette, was removed from the Woonsocket Public Library in 2005 following a complaint from the father of the book’s author. The work was eventually returned to library shelves.
The exhibit is scheduled to be on display in the lobby of the library until October 3.