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Lafayette Marks 30 Years of Banned Books

Easton college celebrates 30th anniversary of Banned Book Week.

The Great Gatsby. The Grapes of Wrath. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

What do these books have in common?

If you said "They're American literary classics," you'd be right.

But if you said "They've all been banned at some point in the last 30 years," you'd be right as well.

For the last 30 years, the American Library Association has spoken out against this sort of censorship with Banned Books Week, which runs from Sept. 30 to Oct. 6.

On Monday afternoon, Lafayette College took part in the anniversary celebration with a "literary flash mob" at the Skillman Library.

At 1 p.m., a group of students, faculty and voluteers gathered at the library's entrance and read from a selection 30 books that had been banned in the last three decades.

Librarian Ana Ramirez Luhrs said she picked the books by looking at 30 years' worth of the ALA's annual list of 10 most banned books, and putting together a collection of "repeat offenders." Are there books that she's surprised to see on the lists?

"Always. The Harry Potter series always surprises me," Ramirez Luhrs said.

Less surprising, but disappointing for her, are books that deal with same sex relationships. 

"For me, I like to read those books to my daughter, because it's a good introduction to families that are different, but are still loving families," she said.

The list of 30 included both Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy's Roommate, children's books that deal with kids who have gay parents. Both books made the top 10 in the ALA's list of the 100 most challenged books between 1990 and 1999. 

And there are things like Gatsby, which seems like it's a tentpole of high school English classes.

"You’d think ‘they’re really old timey,’ but they actually do get challenged," Ramirez Luhrs said.

Monday's event was the first of three the college has planned for Banned Book Week. 

Tomorrow afternoon at 12:15, Professors Bianca Falbo and Andrew Smith will host "All Right Then, I'll Go to Hell," a discussion dealing with Huck Finn. That's happening at the Gendebien Room of Skillman Library.

On Thursday, Alan Gribben, a professor of American Literature at Auburn University, will talk about his decision to edit "racially derogatory" language from both The Adventures Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. This talk is also scheduled for the Gendebien Room, at 4:10 p.m.

The college held the flash mob with help from Judith's Reading Room, a non-profit literacy organization named for Judith Krug, founder of Banned Books Week.

Lafayette senior Erin D’Amelio interned with Judith's Reading Room this summer, and is helping organize the college's Banned Book Week events. She said she was fortunate to go through school without having books banned.

But like Ramirez Luhrs, she's also surprised by some of the selections that have been banned, including "Fahrenheit 451," itself a censorship allegory.

And yes, "Fahrenheit" is science fiction, but consider this: copies of The Grapes of Wrath were burned after it was published in 1939.

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