Low lighting and wine sipping greeted Anchorage locals who attended Cyrano's Bookstore and Off Center Playhouse on Monday, Sept. 24 for readings from some of the most frequently challenged works of literature in America.
Volunteers read from some of their favorite novels, partaking in the celebration of National Banned Book Week, which took place Sept. 22-29. On hand were some University of Alaska Anchorage students and professors. Communication Professors Barabra Harville and Dan Henry read at the event, and journalism and public communication professor Gary Cohn attended with students from one of his classes.
Henry, a former high school teacher from Haines, attended the even with his four-year-old son. He read from Harper Lee's “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a book that he taught ever year in his freshman English class.
“Ten of my students came up to me and told me it was the first book they ever sat down and finished.” Henry said, “It opened their eyes wide.”
Henry believes that literature is the foundation of a democratic society and that we must preserve freedom of speech to preserve our democracy.
“As long as there are people to read banned books, there will be an America,” he said.
The Alaska chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union organized two events at Cyrano's, and others at Borders Books and Music and at Barnes and Noble Booksellers.
This was the first time the AkCLU organized these types of activites in Anchorage, and Executive Director, Jennifer Rudinger said that she was very happy with the turnout and that she would like to make it an annual event.
“This is something that is always relevant. We need to stay vigilant in protecting freedom of speech and ideas,” she said.
Rudinger, who plans on speaking in front of the Anchorage School Board about the possible banning of the sexual coming of age book, "Perfectly Normal," says that the banning of books is up to school boards.
“It varies from school to school Webster's dictionary has been banned at some schools,” she said.
Sherry Eckrich, who read from Judy Blume's “Tiger Eyes,” and Toni Morrison's “Beloved,” believed that the week's events were important and something that people need to be aware of.
“I think it's important to protect freedom of speech, too often it's something we take for granted,” she said.
Eckrich also discussed about the content of the books being read, noting that they held many valid lessons.
“The readings show how innocent the things that people were complaining are,” she said. “Parents shouldn't be worried about these books. They deal honestly with things a lot of teen-agers are feeling.”