Banned Books Week celebrates controversial reads

Nearly everyone has read “Of Mice and Men” or “Lord of the Flies,” and it’s a fairly common sight in San Francisco to see someone on a bicycle donning a “Catcher in the Rye” T-shirt. But each year, these titles and many more reminiscent of high school English class come under attack. And sometimes, these efforts to ban books are successful.

A public read-out took place in the main lobby of the Cesar Chavez Student Center Monday, where students read excerpts from Paulo Freire’s “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” in celebration of the nationwide Banned Books Week, which aims to draw attention to the issue.

“Banned Books Week is actually an annual event that was started by the American Library Association, so we are kind of doing this in celebration of that, but we decided that we wanted something that kind of put a spotlight on ethnic studies,” said Charlene Khoo, the Richard Oaks Multicultural Center resource library assistant. “We wanted to do something a little different and that had to do with our mission.”

While Banned Books Week is usually celebrated by hosting read-outs in libraries and bookstores, this year a virtual read-out will be taking place online for the first time.

“There is a YouTube channel where people can post short videos of reading out from any banned books,” said Katherine Day, fund and resources development officer for the center. “This is our part of this big initiative.”

Each year the American Library Association compiles a list of the top 10 frequently challenged books and each decade a list of the top 100 banned or challenged books. While many try to continue and censor the lives of others, it only causes frustration, which in return inspires movements to defend First Amendment rights, spread awareness about the dangers of censorship and the right to teach and learn ethnic studies.