Honor society stages demonstration on banned books

Photo courtesy of San Jose Public Library, Flickr

Books were read aloud Thursday in a demonstration intended to celebrate freedom of speech and the written word.

The “Banned Book Read Out” was sponsored by Sigma Tau Delta, the English Literature Honors Society, in honor of Banned Books Week, which is celebrated annually from Sept. 24 to Sept. 30.

In the past, the Literature community at Ramapo aimed to organize an event for the week’s celebrations, but with the demands of the beginning of the semester it always seemed difficult. This was the first year the honor society has successfully organized an event this semester in order to raise awareness on the importance of freedom of speech, the written word and the profound aesthetics of banned and challenged books.

Literature professors Dr. Edward Shannon and Dr. Patricia Ard opened the floor with presentations on the history and significance of banned and challenged books.

“Sexually explicit” is the number one reason why books are banned or challenged.

Ard discussed a number of texts which are indeed worth reading despite being banned, including “This One Summer” and “The Chocolate War,” which according to Ard are “excellent” books to read.

Shannon gave a presentation on banned comics of the 1940s and 1950s, discussing Woody Guthrie’s reaction to the comic book “Is This Tomorrow.” The comic offers the imagery and text of what a communist America may look like.

Literature students read passages from banned and challenged books such as Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451,” Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild” and more.

Sigma Tau Delta’s Vice President Rosalexa Rodriguez contributed in organizing the Read Out and read aloud from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” calling the book “one of her favorites.” According to the American Library Association, “The Great Gatsby” is considered a banned book because of “language and sexual references in the book.”

“For me, the Banned Book Read Out and Seminar was an incredible experience in celebrating the written word. It was equally fascinating to see students and participants select to represent their favorite books, poems, that were once banned or challenged,” Rodriguez said.

The secretary of Sigma Tau Delta, senior Heidi Pilla, read from “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll, which is challenged because some object to the animals talking, seemingly placed on the same level as people. Pilla commented on the impact of the event and significance for celebrating Banned Book Week after her reading.

“It was really nice to see a group of students come out and read passages from banned books, poems and comics, showing the freedom to read and to celebrate Banned Book Week,” Pilla said.

Hallie Meister, senior and Sigma Tau Delta treasurer read from John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars,” banned for morbidity. Although Meister considers Green’s book to be her favorite, she was unaware at first that book has been banned. Meister commented on her experience at the event, noting the broad spectrum of genres which each reading offered.

“I thought it was interesting [how] all the different genres of literature were brought to the event,” Meister said.

Christina Connor, a librarian of the George T. Potter Library, contributed to the event with bookmarks, pins and stickers for the attendees. Connor also supplied a survey which listed the top read banned books Ramapo students have read in the past.

“It was great to see students taking interest and participating in Banned Books Week,” Connor said.