SF State students celebrate 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week

“Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” “A House on Mango Street,” “Beloved” and Catcher in the Rye” were student favorites shared during Read Out held in the Cesar Chavez Student Center Tuesday, Oct. 2, to mark the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week.

“It’s a way of getting information out,” about not only books that have been banned, but the effort to limit access to literature, said Katherine Day, resource and fund development officer for the student center.

Banned Books Week was started by The American Library Association in 1982 and seeks to highlight citizens’ freedom to read and have free and open access to information.

A book is deemed banned when it has been removed from school curriculum and libraries in an attempt to restrict access to the literature. When there is an attempt to remove access, but the attempt has failed, books are labeled “challenged” by the ALA.

This week is about “celebrating the freedom to read,” Day said.

To many, the week is about reclaiming personal narratives that have been silenced through the banning of books.

“Being on a campus with the first Ethnic Studies department, we’re partly interested in highlighting the ethnic studies field,” Day said.

Social scientists and ethnic studies advocates see reading literature by authors that students can relate to in a variety of ways, especially culturally, as a way to link cultural pride and academic scholarship. That is the idea of the Ethnic Studies department — to provide curriculum to students about cultures that are often overlooked and to teach minorities about their culture, which is sometimes left out of the mainstream.

Sharon Daraphomheth, a senior, read from “Catcher in the Rye.” Daraphomheth said she is “a huge fan of literature” and feels it “presents a good representation of issues around the world.”

Some of the books on the banned list are considered classics, such as “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker, “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison and The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini.

Participants in the Read Out voiced the idea that banning books is an attack on the freedom to think critically about issues.

“It should be something that is challenged and thought about every day, with our critical thinking of what we see: all the ads we see, and also what we don’t see, all the narratives that are excluded,” said senior Kendall Navarez.

Navarez read from “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker because it resonated with her when she was younger. She said that “we need to have public spaces to talk about these things.”

Daraphomheth said she would “encourage individuals to embrace the fact that we can read them. People should take advantage.”

Students who participated in the Read Out Tuesday afternoon received a free poster. Melanie Cervantes was commissioned to create the posters highlighting Banned Books Week and the connection to ethnic studies. Each poster features a different character: Chewbacca from the Star Wars series, Disney’s Pocahantas, Hello Kitty and Nick Jr.’s Dora the Explorer.

The Read Out was one event of many throughout the week at SF State. The celebration includes an exhibit called Out of Print that runs through Oct. 11 in the art gallery at the student center.

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