NEW ORLEANS—The ACLU of Louisiana will host its annual Banned Books event on October 14th, 2012 in the "Big Mama" Room at the House of Blues New Orleans. Norman Robinson, long time anchor at WDSU TV, will serve as master of ceremonies for the evening that features local authors and celebrities reading from their favorite banned or challenged books. The local reception is held in concert with Banned Books events taking place across the U.S . This year marks the 30th anniversary of the initiative, which seeks to draw attention to censorship issues and the constitutional right to free speech and freedom of expression. Joining the ACLU of Louisiana as co-hosts are the New Orleans Gulf South Booksellers, Association; Blue Cypress Books; Garden District Book Shop; Octavia Books and Maple Street Bookstore.
The Banned Book initiative, celebrating the Freedom to Read, was launched in 1982 by the American Library Association (ALA) in response to a surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. According to the ALA, "Banned Books Week brings together the entire literary community—librarians, booksellers, publishers, teachers, journalists and readers of all types—in shared support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular."
Julie Thibodaux, Outreach and Education Coordinator for the ACLU of Louisiana, has coordinated the event for the past four years. Britton Trice, owner of the Garden District Book Shop, has been involved with the event for five years and says, "We only need look at what's going on in the world around us to appreciate the value of free speech and expression." Thibodaux echoes that sentiment. "Unfortunately, diligence is required to protect our freedom to read. We have a lot of fun, but we can't forget why we're doing this," she said.
This year, readers include photographer and author David Spielman and author Bill Loehfelm. Spielman's photographs are featured in the book Southern Writers, a collaboration with prize winning journalist William W. Starr. Bill Loehfelm is the author of three novels including Fresh Kills, the 2008 winner of the first Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Other local celebrities will also be on hand to read from their favorite banned or challenged books.
The ALA says that 11,300 books have been challenged by schools, libraries, and others since the initiative began in 1982. Books face challenges for myriad reasons, including sexual and racial references, profanity or other material considered objectionable. F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is a prime target, first challenged in 1987 by the Baptist Seminary in Charleston, South Carolina. And, going back to1960, when a school teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma was fired for assigning the book to an 11th grade English class, Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger has been challenged no less than 30 times. Grapes of Wrath, The Color Purple, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Lord of the Flies and John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men are all favorite targets for challenges.
The event, from 5 to 7 p.m. on October 14, is free and open to the public.