Banned literary works help examine freedom of expression

By The Daily Illini Staff Report

The University celebrated the freedom to read and the freedom of speech by giving students a chance to examine literature that were banned in different cultures during Banned Books Week, from Sunday through Saturday.

Banned Books Week, sponsored by The Authors Guild and American Booksellers Association among other organizations, is a nationwide event that takes place in libraries, bookstores and schools throughout the country in hopes of bringing awareness to issues surrounding free speech.

A 20 percent-off sale on select banned books was offered at the Illini Union Bookstore, and the Reading Room, located in the Main Library, has been displaying banned books on their shelves. The books also include texts written by international authors who have been imprisoned or exiled for their work.

The Undergraduate Library showed support for Banned Books Week so students could voice their opinions on why free speech matters Thursday. Students made signs to support free speech and discuss this issue with others.

Dedicating an entire week toward banned books provides time to highlight the challenged books on display and provide opportunities for discussions, events and presentations to draw attention to the ongoing battle against censorship, said David Ward, head librarian of the UGL, in an email

“Banned books represent efforts to censor free speech,” Ward said. “Providing access to them is one way to promote freedom of expression.”

As the University is home to students of diverse backgrounds and unique experiences, Ward said he believes reading the banned books will open new conversations between students to gain a deeper understanding of one another.

“Understanding and discussing diverse viewpoints provides an opportunity to consider alternative opinions and begins important discussions about why certain books provoke strong reactions from readers,” Ward said.

Marcus Bowman, sophomore in DGS, said freedom of speech allows people to hear varying viewpoints, which is important.

“I think we need to know that there’s some not good opinions out there so we can correct them. Or at least understand it.” Bowman said.

Nishant Maniam, senior in Engineering, said Banned Books Week is important because many censored books contain history that is essential to students’ knowledge.

“It’s free speech, so you can write whatever you want, you can publish whatever you want and everybody should have at least the ability to go and find a book banned by their local school,” Maniam said.

Maniam said often times, banned books are censored because they are valuable.

“There’s probably something worth finding in these books if they’re banned,” Maniam said.

Rosemary Froeliger, master student in the library science program, became interested in banned books because it’s interesting to see what people get upset about and how that impacted society today.

“I think it’s interesting and important for students to be aware of what stories have not been allowed to exist or what narratives of our society has been criticized or diminished, if that makes sense. Students need to be aware of every life experience or should be open to reading more about every life experience,” Froeliger said.

Franne Davis, assistant director of general books at the IUB, said Banned Books Week has been popular at the University for many years. Selling books at a more affordable price makes it more feasible for students to purchase a book and read it for personal pleasure rather than for classes.

“To know that there have been, and will always be, challenges to these freedoms is worth a pause to consider,” Davis said. “It’s the kind of pause that can be empowering.”

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