Students ‘Read-out’ in honor of Banned Book Week

Alexander McCall

Standing on a soap box made of wooden crates, Sherry Alusow looked at her iPad. 

Wearing a sash made out of caution tape, she read from the once banned Song of Solomon, an excerpt from The Bible.

“Reading out loud, for me, is a bit of activism,” said Alusow, who works in the Department of English. “I often find that we overlook the passages that are very beautiful or that are very moving but are targeted because of the aspects they contain. It’s something to be applauded, not seen as hidden or dirty or inappropriate.”

The Department of English hosted a Banned Book Read-out Thursday at the entrance to Sanford Hall as part of a celebration of Banned Book Week.

“I think one of the ironies of banning books is that it demonstrates the power of literature,” Alusow said. “If power is something that you fear, then you will be willing to censor or trying to block it.”

Books such Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” and Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” sat on the sign-in table, in addition to handouts with recently banned authors and the importance of exercising First Amendment rights. 

Jessica White, a graduate student in the Department of English, helped facilitate the event.

“Students have approached the table and told me they didn’t know that certain books were banned,” she said. “And the fact that they’re aware that someone tried to take away their right to read that is an accomplishment.” 

Student and faculty volunteers read selections from their favorite banned books for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Rotating in shifts, participants read aloud to those who stopped and listened, or to those rushing in packs to their next classes. 

“The idea of banning a book is absurd,” White said. “The idea of limiting intellectual freedom is ridiculous. You can’t contain ideas. Once it’s out into the world, you can burn every copy of it, but the idea you’re so scared of is still there.” 

Senior psychology major Matthew Kelly, who read from Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughter House Five,” agreed.

“Intellectual freedom is critical to the development of basically everything,” he said.  “Without intellectual freedom, we fall into an oppressive environment. It is critical students are aware of this.” 

The Read-out was the final event of Banned Books Week, following a film presentation and faculty panel on banned books.

STORY: CASEY SUGLIA, Intern A&E Reporter