For more than 30 years, the Let’s Talk About It reading and book discussion program model has been used by hundreds of libraries. The idea is simple: A group of people reads a common series of books, selected by recognized scholars, and discusses them in the context of a larger, overarching theme.
This Year’s Theme: Banned Books
Between January 1 and August 31, 2022, the American Library Association documented 681 attempts to ban or restrict library resources, and 1,651 unique titles were targeted.
“The unprecedented number of challenges we’re seeing already this year reflects coordinated, national efforts to silence marginalized or historically underrepresented voices and deprive all of us – young people, in particular – of the chance to explore a world beyond the confines of personal experience,” said ALA President Lessa Kananiʻopua Pelayo-Lozada.
This year’s discussion will explore five banned books through the lens of the humanities — that is, by relating the readings to historical trends and events, other works of literature, and philosophical and ethical considerations, as well as life itself. Under the guidance of professional moderator, writer, and humanist Annaliese Jakimides, a consideration of the ideas presented in these books can foster empathy and compassion in this divisive time. As with all LTAI programs, the discussion will allow us to learn more about ourselves and the world around us.
What is a Book Ban?
PEN America defines a school book ban as any action taken against a book based on its content and as a result of parent or community challenges, administrative decisions, or in response to direct or threatened action by lawmakers or other governmental officials, that leads to a previously accessible book being either completely removed from availability to students, or where access to a book is restricted or diminished.
Our Moderator: Annaliese Jakimides
Witherle Library welcomes back Annaliese Jakimides to moderate the discussion.
Annaliese’s prose and poetry have been published in many journals and magazines, including Beloit Poetry Journal, Utne Reader, Decor Maine, The Ekphrastic Review, and GQ, as well as in many anthologies, most recently Wait: Poems from the Pandemic, Maintenant, and Breaking Bread: Essays from New England on Food, Hunger, and Family. Cited in national competitions, she has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of theNet. Her work has also been broadcast on NPR and MPBN. Along with Troy Casa, she is the cofounder of the Belfast Poetry Festival in Belfast, Maine.
She has interviewed many artists, musicians, and writers, including Tess Gerritsen, Harold Garde, Noel Paul Stookey, Lois Dodd, Daniel Minter, Jamie Wyeth, Ashley Bryan, Alex Katz, and Melissa Sweet. She is the editor of the annual monograph series of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts as well as the editor of Vision & Legacy: Celebrating the Architecture of Haystack.
The opinions below are not necessarily those of Witherle Memorial Library. They present different viewpoints in the national debate on banned books.
“Book banning efforts have grown rapidly in number…over the past two years, splitting communities, causing bitter rifts on school and library boards, and spreading across the country through social media and political campaigns.” The New York Times
New York Times
Attempts to ban books are accelerating and becoming more divisive
Wall Street Journal
What Does a Library’s ‘Diversity Auditor’ Do?
Art Spiegelman decries Tennessee school board for removing ‘Maus’ from its curriculum
What People Miss in the Conversation About Banned Books
Banned in the USA: The Growing Movement to Censor Books in Schools
“Though it’s natural that we want to protect young people from some of life’s more difficult realities, the truth is that banning books does nothing to protect them from dealing with tough issues. Instead, it denies young people resources that can help them deal with the challenges that confront them.” ALA
PBS Daily News Lessons
Activity: Discuss why school districts are banning books about the Holocaust and racism
You can ban a book, but can you stop teens from finding it online?
Why We Want Parents to Try to Ban Books
Moms for Liberty
A Guide to Defending Your Child
Sources for this post:
ALA Releases Preliminary Data on 2022 Book Bans