Writing Center throws second-ever Banned Books week

As part of the national celebration of banned and challenged books, the Oakland University Writing Center (OUWC) threw its second-ever Banned Books week.

OUWC sponsored its first banned book week this past January and made it a part of the national celebration of the challenged, yet beloved works. Every day last week, students and OUWC staff met at the Writing Center to discuss and read passages from different challenged books.

The groups discussed Fahrenheit 451, Perks of Being a Wallflower, Of Mice & Men, Lord of the Rings and To Kill A Mockingbird.

“The major difference this year was the new time frames and new books,” said Ashley Cerku, Writing Center Operations Coordinator. “We tried to have a more variety of books this time with both modern and classical books being discussed.”

OUWC hung multiple pictures of different banned books around the center at Kresge Library. The pictures included the cover of the book on one side and then a brief description of why they were banned on the other. Captain Underpants, A Light in the Attic and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone were among the examples hanging around the center.

Each day a different book was discussed, partially read and then a conversation was open to students and the staff about the books. They focused on why the works might have been banned or why they thought it should not have been banned. The meetings included free food for those who attended.

This year the national banned week was focused on comic books and graphic novels that have been banned in some areas of the country.

In fact, the most challenged book in 2013 according to the American Library Association (ALA) was Captain Underpants for offensive language, unsuited for age group and violence.

Fifty Shades of Grey came in fourth place for nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, being sexually explicit and unsuited to age group.

According to the ALA, “a challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.”

Over five thousand challenges have been reported in the past decade, with over 1,500 complaints of “sexually implicit” material and 1,200 complaints of “offensive language.”

“I do not understand why parents want to pretend that these things do not exist,” said Cindy Bily, Children Literature professor at Macomb Community College. “I guess parents are afraid that if children read about violence, sex or drugs, it will make it seem like a presentable lifestyle.” 

When the group met on Thursday to discuss Lord of the Rings, the presenter and the attendees agreed that they did not understand why the book was being challenged. Many question a lot of the challenged books on the list, which is why every year libraries across America celebrate these banned, yet beloved works.

More information on the most frequently challenged books can be found at ala.org. For more upcoming events coming to the OU Writing Center, visit oakland.edu/ouwc.