Over the summer, I had the opportunity attend the American Library Association‘s Annual Conference with my friends. One of the wonderful experiences provided by this national conference was the opportunity to participate in their annual Banned Book Week Virtual Read Out for the BBW YouTube Channel! Over 230 participants contributed by selecting books and reading them on camera during the June conference, and the complete video playlist was released on September 22, prior to the start of Banned Books Week 2016, September 25-October 1. Did I pick the nerdiest title available? According to modern popularity, I did not. Did I pick a true cult classic? Without a doubt.
Still trying to overcome my “Coulrophobia” (Fear of Clowns)
For an exceptionally concise explanation of BBW, check out the wealth of resources at the ALA, and defend your Right to READ!
IT All Started with a Clown
The biggest challenge was finding the right book because there so many to choose from! I truly wanted to pick something a book that resonated with me, and I think I even startled myself when I wiggled free Stephen King’s IT from the tightly packed bookshelving.
For decades, I have avoided reading a single King novel cover to cover, and it can all be traced back to 1990 when I watched IT. I was ten years old and completely smitten with the late Jonathan Brandis. When I found out he was in the mini-series, I HAD to see IT, and I regretted IT immediately. It was the perfect storm of writing, acting, and editing which has prevented me from ever picking up the book, let alone lifting the cover and cracking the spine! The “coming of age” story was also a “horror” story, and we all know how well I fare with that genre! Tim Curry’s portrayal of Pennywise the Clown still terrifies me to this day, making it almost impossible to convince me to go to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios.
How did I start the process of dispelling my fear of clowns? I elected to go back to the beginning and read the opening pages of the book responsible for making me constantly check storm drains for chatty monsters, especially when post-hurricane flooding is involved.
Slowly but surely, I’m taking back my childhood!
There are numerous works of his which have been made into movies, TV mini-series or full series such as Pet Semetary, Misery, The Shawshank Redemption, The Shining, Carrie, The Stand, Under the Dome and The Dark Tower Series. Ironically, I often found the film interpretation disarming and easier to stomach than allowing my own imagination to run rampant with interpretation. Since high school, I’ve had friends continually recommend the writing of Stephen King. Fellow writers have even recommended On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft which I don’t feel like I should tackle without completing at least ONE work of fiction by King.
My personal goal by Banned Books Week 2017 is to actually read IT from cover to cover and re-watch the original mini-series. The irony isn’t lost on me that the 2017 remake of IT will be released on the day AFTER my 38th birthday1. The opportunity to contribute to an initiative such as the American Library Association isn’t rare, but what made it a treat, was sharing the experience with my friend.
My Favorite Nerdy Librarian
My long time friend and super librarian, Christy, also participated in the BBW VRO by reading an excerpt from And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole. Christy and I have been friends since 2001 and have shared countless hours of anime, NaNoWriMo, and Dungeons and Dragons. She visited me when I lived in Japan, and we even happened upon each other in London when I was still flying. She’s been a constant force in my life, especially through several life changing decisions, and I am so thankful that she shared this fantastic opportunity with me.
I watched in awe as Christy put her acting skills to work!
KNO: As a librarian, writer, and book nerd, how important is educating the public about Banned & Challenged Books?
Christy: “I am a strong believer in the first amendment, and feel that works of fiction are part of that protected free speech. Every time I hear about a banned or challenged book, I am disappointed that well-meaning parents/educators try to impose their own perceptions of a work on every child in a school or school library, or every visitor to a public library. I am of the belief that if you want to restrict what your own child reads, that’s fine, but trying to force this restriction on people outside your family is an unfair censorship to ideas, and counter to free speech. I think that educating the general public about these acts of imposed will is important to open up the discussion about who gets to make these kinds of decisions, and who doesn’t.”
KNO: Could you give a little more information about why you selected And Tango Makes Three? Is there a personal investment in the content or is it purely educational?
Christy: “And Tango Makes Three is a book based on a true story of two male penguins who hatch and raise a baby penguin called Tango. I feel that introducing the concepts of different family types to children at a young age is important. I feel that a lot of prejudice is inherited and reinforced by those around you. I think it is also important to show children who may also be in a family with same-sex parents that they are not overlooked in literature -sure this book is for a younger age reader and is about penguins, not humans, but I think that representation, and seeing individuals like you in what you read is a critical part of ensuring our children don’t feel.”
Three: How did was your experience making your video at ALAAC ’16? Did you have any reservations or concerns about contributing to this video project?
Christy: “I enjoyed it. In fact, when we first walked by the booth I was disappointed that I didn’t have the time to stop, and was delighted to see there was availability when the day was drawing to a close. This is a cause I believe in, so no concerns there, and since I received my undergraduate degree in Theatre, I didn’t even have any stage fright.”
Four: Have you read any other books on the B&C Books list?
Christy: “This is a moving target, and a new list of the 10 most banned books is issued each year (you can see the most frequently challenged books list here). For the 2015 list I have read Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, and parts of the Holy Bible. While I have not yet read I Am Jazz, I did have the opportunity to meet Jazz Jennings at this year’s ALA. From the 2014 list I have read And Tango Makes Three, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Basically I’ve read one or two books from every year’s list.”
About Christy: An academic librarian, writer, avid reader, cat mom and part-time D&D player, Christy lives in sunny Florida. Her blog can be found at Crushed Muffin.com. On twitter she goes by @weylyn42 for daily life and geeky things, and @ShoreyChristy when she is wearing her librarian hat.
When it comes to social activism, I tend to be very passive. I’ll donate money, give blood, or volunteer a few hours on a weekend, but I’ve never participating in such a large scale campaign. After meeting the gang over at The Harry Potter Alliance2, I was inspired to become a Wizard Activist by harnessing my love for nerdy things and driving it into the community. Giving back to the community can be done in so many ways, but I love how the libraries are continuing to combat illiteracy and the freedom of speech. I’m going to strive to build up my public speaking confidence because I want to participate in this project and others in the future!
If you are interested in submitted a video to the ALA BBW’s celebration of Banned Books Week, there is still time to do so. They’ve posted their video submission criteria so anyone can participate in the fun! I might start researching and preparing for next year because there are so many wonderful titles on the list.
Answer Me, These Questions Three
- Have you ever read a book on one of the Banned Books lists?
- Have you ever watched a film that was based on a Banned or Challenged Book?
- Which B&C books (or films) would you recommend?
Participating in this project inspired me to launch my YouTube channel!
- At this time, I cannot comment as to the likelihood that this will be the official KarenFest 2017 film selection for my birthday month celebration. The IT remake is currently scheduled for release on 09/08/2017, nearly 27 years after it’s release on 11/18/1990.
- I purchased my Granger/Lovegood 2016 shirt at the HPA Booth at ALAAC16, but they are available for purchase in their shop. I am wearing a unisex medium as the other ladies sizes were sold out. I really want the Azkabanned Book Club shirt for next year’s reading!