Celebrating Banned Books Week 2015


"Men feared witches and burnt women. It is the function of speech
to free men from the bondage of irrational fears."

—Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, 
1927 ruling of Whitney v. California

Precocious Iranian girls, gay penguins, birds and bees, hard-living Native Americans, homosexual teens, both American and Russian, and racism—this week is all about banned books here at PEN as we join librarians, booksellers, publishers, and writers to celebrate the freedom to read. Started in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in book challenges and bannings in public schools and libraries, Banned Books Week supports free and open access to information and ideas, even those considered unpopular or unorthodox by some.

Throughout Banned Books Week, September 27–October 3, PEN will be posting essays by writers and translators about the banned books that mean the most to them. Among this year's contributors are Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Ronald Meyer, Lo Kwa Mei-en, Darnell L. Moore, Lidia Yuknavitch, Nina McConigley, and Marian Schwartz. You can read previous contributors here

"The capital and complex imagination of black people has always been banned, unless it is supportive in the service of the privileged body’s desire to view itself as superior."
For those of us outside Russia, it’s hard to convey the kind of risk Wilke and her publisher were contemplating. The Putin presidency has committed serious violence—only some of it legal—against political and cultural figures considered opponents.
What if the preemptive banning of marginalized writers is just as much a cause of trauma as racist story-telling by powerful white writers?
This book, this author, this girl body said: Make art. A girl is born and we make a story of her. Daughter. Lover. Wife. Mother. In Kathy Acker’s books, a girl body is the site of irreducible resistance.
Paradoxically, the Metropole affair both silenced Lisnyanskaya as a poet in the USSR and liberated her from the restrictions imposed by publishing (self-censorship being an obligatory tool in the Soviet writer’s kit), ultimately affording an inner freedom that shaped her poetry and biography.
"That is why The Bluest Eye is dangerous and always situated on a banned books list. It exposes the violence that besets the human condition as a result of white supremacist lies, misogynist thirst and the greed that extracts every ounce of goodness out of American life."
"The trend in India of writers being harassed and stigmatized for their work is troubling. It is imperative that writers from both inside and outside India support these voices, read and buy their books, and make it known that harassment and scare tactics cannot silence writers."
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