8 great reads for book week

In his book “Fahrenheit 451,” Ray Bradbury imagines a future where all books are banned and secret books are thrown into the fire. Bradbury created this dystopian world in 1953, but according to data from the American Library Association we are moving towards something more real than at any other time in modern history.

The ALA reported a 584% increase in the number of published books in 2021 (1,597 compared to 273 the previous year). Of the 10 most banned books in 2021, nine were considered “sexually explicit” or sexually explicit, five related to LGBTQ+ issues and four by color writing. This isn’t all that different from the top 10 lists of banned books in previous years, but the increase in volume suggests that some of these ideas are starting to enter the mainstream, says Elizabeth Kleinfeld, Ph.D., professor in the Department of English and director of the Writing Center at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

“I think there is a lot of fear on the part of those who seek to ban those books about how much the world will change if the ideas in those books become mainstream. ,” Kleinfeld said.

And book bans aren’t limited to conservative states like Texas and Florida. In Erie, the Brooky Parks library was closed to host a “Read Woke” book club. Denver author R. Alan Brooks has received death threats on social media for publicizing his plans to write an anti-white-supremacist graphic novel. Everyone is affected by the effects of banning books, said Wendolyn Weber, Ph.D., professor of English at MSU Denver.

“We are all diminished when someone in our community decides that they have the right to dictate what is or isn’t appropriate for someone to read,” Weber said. “When books are banned for expressing difference, for questioning an assumed normative pattern, how does that not damage the ability of individuals to think freely and critically about themselves?”


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By reading banned books, we unite against censorship, celebrate bold ideas and recognize their value in our society, said Weber. In honor of Banned Books Week (Sunday through Sept. 24), RED gathered expert advice on banned books from English and Education faculty members, and Auraria Library staff.

Kleinfeld suggests:

“An Indigenous History of the United States” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Filed by the Central York High School in Pennsylvania in 2021, Dunbar-Ortiz’s book revised the history of the United States, revealing colonialist policies designed to displace and destroy indigenous communities. Her background is in indigenous knowledge and seeks to address a lack of knowledge about the indigenous peoples of North America.

“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker

First published in 1982, Walker’s book began to be banned in 1984, and various bans have been in force ever since. The story depicts the abuse and physical abuse of a black girl by her father and later, in adulthood, her abusive marriage and relationship with a woman. The book won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, marking the first time a black woman received these prestigious awards.

Weber suggests:

“Madame Bovary” by Gustave Flaubert

The protagonist of this book, Emma Bovary, seeks comfort in outdoor activities and spending beyond her means. A true story of a woman dissatisfied with her marriage and her life, “Madame Bovary” was banned when it was first released in 1856, and the author was tried for violence.

“Rubyfruit Forest” by Rita Mae Brown

Published in 1973, “Rubyfruit Jungle” is a coming-of-age story about Molly Bolt, the adopted daughter of a poor Southern family. Known as the first lesbian novel, the book was banned by many schools for its sexual content.

Corey Sell, Ph.D., professor of elementary education at MSU Denver suggests:

“The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas

Thomas’s young adult novel about a black teenager, Starr Williams, who witnesses a police shooting of an unrequited friend, landed on the top 10 list of banned books almost every year since its publication in 2017 and is the fifth best selling book. of 2021. The book received many awards and was made into a movie in 2018.

“Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Ibrahim X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds

This co-written, best-selling book for middle school readers follows five historical figures – Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, WEB Du Bois and Angela Davis – to show the difference between segregationist, assimilationist and anti-racist ideas. Critics of the book say the book contains “selective history” and does not show discrimination against all people.

Kelly A. McCusker, Director of Collections, Auraria Library, recommends:

“Kite Flying” by Khaled Hosseini

A New York Times bestseller, “The Kite Runner” tells the story of an unlikely relationship during the turmoil in 1970s Afghanistan. It has been on the top 10 list of banned books since its publication in 2003 and was made into a movie in 2007.

“I know why the caged bird sings” by Maya Angelou

Often considered an autobiographical novel, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” features a black girl from age 3 to 17 and describes her experiences with the racism and trauma. Published in 1969 to critical acclaim, the book has been contested in 15 states and is one of the 10 books most frequently banned from libraries and classrooms.

See the Auraria Library’s complete list of prohibited books.

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