Friday, September 09, 2016

Banned Book READ-OUTS! Scheduled For Albany, Troy and Saratoga Springs

Per the NYCLU

Lovers of books and free speech will be celebrating Americans’ constitutional freedom to read at three Banned Book READ-OUTS! later this month in the Capital Region. At these events, local citizens read their favorite passages from books that have been banned or challenged.

This year’s events are scheduled for:
· Albany Public Library, 161Washington Avenue, Wednesday, September 28 at 6 pm.

· Saratoga Springs Public Library, 49 Henry Street, community room, Sunday, September 18 at 3 pm.

· Market Block Books, 290 River Street in Troy, Friday, September 30 at 7 pm.

Each year there are hundreds of attempts to ban books in schools and libraries throughout the country. Melanie Trimble, Director of the Capital Region Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said, “Our Constitution gives us the right to read what we want and the best way to preserve this freedom is to exercise it.”

This year’s banned book celebrations are focusing in particular on the subject of diversity. The American Library Association (ALA) estimates that more than half of all banned or challenged books are written by authors of color or represent groups or viewpoints outside the mainstream. Trimble said, “It’s distressing to see that, in our diverse country, there is so much effort spent on trying to muzzle diverse voices.”

Even when such attempts at censorship are turned back, they often have a residual dampening effect. Teachers may shy away from including challenged books on reading lists; libraries and bookstores may shrink from featuring them on their shelves.

In the past year, the three most challenged books have been Looking for Alaska by John Green; Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, and I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings. Many of our greatest novels have been among the most consistently challenged works. Some examples: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple, Ulysses, Invisible Man, The Call of the Wild, Native Son, Rabbit, Run and An American Tragedy.

This year, banned websites are also receiving attention. Excessive and unbalanced filtering of websites has become a growing issue in schools. The American Civil Liberties Union, for example, notes that many serious LGBT sites are often blocked, while religious sites aimed at convincing LGBT youth to change their sexual orientation or gender identity and sites that foster hate speech against LGBT people are not blocked.

For example, The Trevor Project, a lauded website devoted to suicide prevention among LGBT youth, is commonly blocked by schools, but the National Organization for Marriage site, which advocates against marriage equality, often goes unfiltered.

Local sponsors of these banned books READ OUTS! are the Albany, Troy and Saratoga Springs public libraries, the Capital Region Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs and Market Block Books in Troy.

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