Port Townsend marks Banned Books Week

Throughout history, book burnings have come to represent the destruction of knowledge, democracy, and freedom.

Whether it was the destruction of reading materials in America in the 1950s due to the Red Scare or the restriction of books and other media in US schools in recent years, literary censorship is still prominent in today’s day and age.

To celebrate this fundamental freedom, Sept. 18 to Sept. 24 is known as Banned Books Week and celebrates Americans’ right to read.

The city of Port Townsend issued a proclamation during its Monday council meeting to reiterate support for Banned Books Week and the constitutionally-protected freedom to read and consume media that may be seen as unorthodox, controversial, or unpopular.

In its proclamation, the city said: “Intellectual freedom is essential to the preservation of a free society and a creative culture.”

“The fear of censorship causes authors who seek to avoid controversy to practice self-censorship, thus limiting our access to new ideas and voices,” the proclamation continued. “Americans can be trusted to exercise critical judgment, to make their own decisions about what they read and believe, and to exercise the responsibilities that accompany this freedom.”

Banned Books Week was started in 1982 following an upsurge in book bans and challenges across schools, libraries, and bookstores in the United States.

“The top 10 most challenged books of 2021 were mostly by or about Black or LGBTQIA+ persons,” said Melody Sky Weaver, library director for the Port Townsend Public Library, during the council meeting. “This year I think is a very apt theme. It is: Books Unite Us and Censorship Divides Us.”

This year’s top three most challenged or banned books in America are “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison, and “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson. All three pieces of literature have been challenged or restricted due to their LGBTQ+ content.

“The very best libraries are mirrors, windows, and doors, meaning that you see yourself represented in library collections as the mirror. You see people who have lived experiences other than your own as the window, and finally, the door that brings us together,” Weaver said.

To learn more about Banned Books Week, go to bannedbooksweek.org.

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