Guest post by writer and performer, Tonya Todd
“Books are a form of political action. Books are knowledge. Books are reflection. Books change your mind.” ~ Toni Morrison
Literacy, access to education, and promoting literary citizenship are high priorities for me. Part of being an activist means being active in my advocacy. In my previous role as Education Chair for Henderson Writers Group, I railed against censorship. The recent surge in book-banning sparked my new plan to serve the literary community.
Banned Books Conversations: Where Radical Readers Discuss Prohibited Prose.
What is a Banned Book?
Any work that has been removed from a library shelf or school curriculum.
Why should we care?
Book-banning limits the public’s access to information. Restricting information discourages freedom of thought. One of the primary functions of education is to teach students how to think for themselves, something they can’t do without access to proper tools and materials.
Banned books tend to cover important real-world topics. People who aren't exposed to these topics may not be equipped to handle these situations when facing them in their adult lives. When books are pulled from the shelves, parents, teachers, and students lose those educational tools. More importantly, they lose choice.
What’s the battle plan?
We can fight censorship by speaking about it. In writing. In person. And, on camera. Banned Books Conversations will bring awareness to the increase in book-banning and the inferno threatening free-thinking society. Over the course of Banned Books Week, this series will cover seven different books, the reasons they were banned, and the value in reading them. Each day, September 18th-24th, I’ll post a panel discussion featuring authors, educators, parents, and readers.
Which banned books are you discussing?
1984 by George Orwell
Beloved by Toni Morrison
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
Why were these books banned?
The challenges to these books run the gamut: accusations of profanity, anti-family themes, pro-communism, anti-Christian views, references to slavery, racism, witchcraft, sex, critical race theory, LGBTQ+ content, violence, ghosts, and in two cases, having problematic authors.
How will these conversations help?
These panels won’t solve the problem. That said, I believe in ripple effects. By hosting these seven discussions about why some books are banned and why it's important to protect the public's rights to read them, I'm hoping to open a discourse between people in multiple nations that have the potential to create waves across the globe.
What action can we take?
Tonya Todd is an author, actress, and Sin City cinephile who served on the board as Henderson Writers Group’s Education Chair for four years and still and coordinates their Dime Grinds, a program that exposes authors to the public via monthly meet-and-greets. An active literary citizen, she also belongs to Las Vegas Screenwriters and Writers of Southern Nevada.
She has short stories in Vegas Writes: Love in the Dunes, Tales from the Silver State IV, and Authors Portraits LV. Her non-fiction is featured in NPR's Desert Companion. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.