Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
Banned Books Week 2020 will be held September 27 – October 3. The theme of this year’s event is “Censorship is a dead end. Find your freedom to read!”
By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles lists of challenged books as reported in the media and submitted by librarians and teachers across the country. The Top 10 Challenged Books of 2019 are:
- George by Alex Gino
Reasons: challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”
- Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
Reasons: challenged for LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased
- A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller
Reasons: Challenged and vandalized for LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning
- Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
Reasons: Challenged, banned, and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate”
- Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis
Reasons: Challenged and restricted for featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint
- I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
Reasons: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”
- The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Reasons: Banned and challenged for profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”
- Drama written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Reasons: Challenged for LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals”
- Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
Reasons: Banned and forbidden from discussion for referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals
- And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson illustrated by Henry Cole
Reason: Challenged and relocated for LGBTQIA+ content.
Doggy Bags, is a new public art installation on Broadway NYC’s Manhattan Garment District. The sculptures by New York-based artist Will Kurtz are entitled Doggy Bags and are all create from recycled materials. The works on display are diverse breeds including an English bulldog named Harriet, chihuahua called Harriet, a pug named Maisy, a bassett hound called Stanley, and a bull mastiff known as Daphne. The installation is part of a year-round program from the Garment District Alliance and this autumn there is an added impetus: to welcome New Yorkers and visitors back to Manhattan.
Doggy Bags is situated on Broadway between 38th and 40th Street. The Garment District Art on the Plazas installations are supported through Arterventions. It will be up through November 20th.
After recently spending more than an hour making minor repairs to a damaged 19th century book, I have an even greater appreciation for book conservation professionals. This nine minute video shows how King’s College Library Cambridge conserves its collection of rare English literature.
Screenwriter Todd Alcott, creates these wonderful digital mashups that combine the language of pop music and the visual language of 20th century pulp fiction paperbacks.
While Alcott finds many of his vintage book covers online, he still discovers a few gems in secondhand bookstores and has a soft spot for the battered originals.
I’d never understood pulp design until I started this project. As I started looking at it, I realized that the aesthetic of pulp is so deeply attached to its product that it’s impossible to separate the two. And that’s what great design is, a graphic representation of ideas. When I started examining the designs, to see why some work and some don’t, I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of artistry involved in the covers. Pulp was a huge cultural force, there were dozens of magazines and publishers, cranking out stuff every month for decades, detective stories and police stories and noir stories and mysteries. It employed thousands of artists, writers and painters and illustrators. And the energy of the paintings is just off the charts. It had to be, because any given book cover had to compete with the ten thousand other covers that were on display. It had to grab the viewer fast, and make that person pick up the book instead of some other book. I love all kinds of midcentury stuff, but nothing grabs you the way a good pulp cover does.
Quarantine Public Library is a brilliant online publisher of free short downloadable books created by independent writers, photographers, and artists. The diminutive books are designed to be printed on one sheet of paper, then folded into a zine-style book. The clever project was created by Katie Garth, a Philadelphia-based printmaker and graphic designer, and Tracy Honn, a Madison, WI–based printing history educator, and artist.
The contributors to the Quarantine Public Library were free to create whatever they want for the project. This has resulted in a wide-ranging collection of 43 books to date. There’s something for everyone with works in diverse genres.
You can support QPL project by buying a print-your-own library card or giving a donation through the Quarantine Public Library website. All proceeds generated by the project will be donated to EveryoneOn, a nonprofit that provides low-cost computers, internet service, and technology skills training to low-income families.
Two short works from underappreciated Canadian poet, essayist, Greek scholar Anne Carson.
Paris-based Mathematic Studio produced this wonderful animation for Bob Marley’s timeless “Redemption Song.” Directed by Octave Marsal and Théo de Gueltzl, the video draws heavily on imagery and iconography surrounding the Rastafarian movement.
From Maine to New Mexico and from Alabama to Minnesota a series of roadside poetry signs have been popping up across the United States. The often philosophical works are all based on Japanese Senryū style a sister poem to the Haiku. While traditional Haiku are about nature, Senryū follow the same 5-7-5 syllable format to address elements of human nature. You can discover more about the secretive project at Roadside Senryū.
Science Fiction fans around the world—myself included—were excited to see the first trailer for the new Dune film last week. (see below)Although I enjoyed the first cinematic interpretation of Frank Herbert’s interstellar saga, like many I found David Lynch’s version lacking in many ways. So, I’m hopeful that the new movie will get it right this time.
As a life-long sci-fi geek, I discovered the original Dune novels early and actually read most of the Frank Herbert series including three of the five sequels. I only recently found out that Herbert originally published Dune in a serialized format in Analog magazine over 9 issues in 1963 because he was unable to sell the novel to any publisher. In fact, he was rejected by at least 23 publishers before Chilton, which was better known for publishing auto repair manuals than novels, picked up the book. Quite surprising since Dune went on to win both the Hugo and Nebula awards.
If you are not familiar with the Dune saga, the story is set in the distant future amidst a feudal interstellar society in which various noble houses control planetary fiefs, Dune tells the story of young Paul Atreides, whose family accepts the stewardship of the planet Arrakis. While the planet is an inhospitable and sparsely populated desert wasteland, it is the only source of melange, or “the spice”, a drug that extends life and enhances mental abilities. Melange is also necessary for space navigation, which requires a kind of multidimensional awareness and foresight that only the drug provides. As melange can only be produced on Arrakis, control of the planet is thus a coveted and dangerous undertaking. The story explores the multi-layered interactions of politics, religion, ecology, technology, and human emotion, as the factions of the empire confront each other in a struggle for the control of Arrakis and its spice.