Fahrenheit 2022

History repeats itself once again. In the 1930s, the Nazis taking over Germany began to burn books that did not align with their ideology: books that explored communism, socialism, liberal perspectives and other subjects “un-German”.

Similar censorship is happening today in America. Books centered around sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion or speculation surrounding government are being removed and forbidden from schools, libraries and bookstores. 

It’s hard not to fear foul play considering the events of the past, especially when the books being banned are often crucial to an essential part of learning about the world and the people around us. Literature is a form of communication through which we understand concepts and ideas different from our own, how we understand human minds and souls in an intimate and altogether unique way.

Pia Ledina, banned book enthusiast and owner of Monroe’s very own Turning the Page Bookstore, says, “I would say that when you burn a book, you’re burning all of the things that went into that, and all of the things that can come out of that. People’s minds are changed by discourse, by thought, by just the ideas that they come across.”

To learn about others is to learn about oneself, to find out who you are, living through the lives of others; a concept essential to the lives of the younger generations of today, living in a diverse and evolving society.

In defense of this idea, members of the book world from authors, to readers, to librarians and teachers are taking a stand in deciding the books being shared. These actions span from passive aggressive displays of favorite banned books in stores to outright protests demanding people read them in spite of the allegations against them.

A recent breaking protest in the book banning world was the creation of the fireproof copy of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, the international phenomenon that inspired the Hulu TV show. As a modern classic that touches upon several sensitive topics, this is one of the most targeted books in the country. In response to the hostility against her book, Atwood teamed up with popular publishing industry Penguin Random House to create a fireproof copy; a viral video depicts Atwood herself using a flamethrower in an attempt to burn the unburnable book.

One movement on the rise among teenagers is the formulation of “banned book clubs”, in which high schoolers read and discuss the novels being targeted across the country. Encouraged by bookstores and libraries, students are fighting back in an attempt to learn from the past and potential future to create a better world for all. 

As a school librarian in the past and a bookseller now, Ledina declares, “I think it’s so powerful when there are book clubs about books that are a little bit, shall we say, controversial, because the conversation about those books can be really intense, but it can also be incredibly, incredibly important.”

A large event in this realm of thought is “Banned Books Week”, an annual awareness campaign that hosts a national event in which booksellers across the nation put up humorous displays depicting banned books. Displays include caution tape, warning signs, blind books, and cards with explanations as to why the book is banned. Clever slogans like “Azka-Banned” make light of a controversial situation that prompts bookworms to encourage kids and adults of all ages to read whatever strikes their fancy:

“I just fundamentally believe that there are a lot of folks out there, like myself, like school librarians, like teachers, like administrators, that believe the way that we do, and there are many people who believe that books should be read and that it’s wrong to get rid of them. I really believe that there are people out there who want to protect books at all costs,” Ledina remarks passionately.

To read is to come in contact with the soul of another person, whether living simultaneously or a life of the past, words connect us in an otherworldly way, reaching through the veil of history and into the future: “I for one, will always stand up for the books that are being pulled, or questioned, or challenged,” states Ledina.

One last message from Ledina to the book banners:

“Start with reading the book, then come talk to us.”

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