Vt. authors to read from banned books Sept. 23
MIDDLEBURY — Some of Vermont’s best-known writers will read from works that have been challenged, banned or censored at a Middlebury event Thursday, Sept. 23, sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont to celebrate the First Amendment during Banned Books Week (Sept. 21-27).
“An Evening Without: Giving Voice to the Silenced,” will take place at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Church in Middlebury, located at 2 Duane Court off Charles Avenue. (Parking for those with disabilities is available at the church; additional parking will be at the nearby high school parking lot.)
Banned Books Week is an annual event sponsored in the fall by the American Library Association and noted nationally. It was first observed in 1982 to celebrate the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion, even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular.
The ACLU-VT’s first “Evening Without” program took place five years ago in Norwich. The event received national attention and was so popular that the ACLU decided to make it an annual event and to hold it in a different Vermont town or city each year. Last year’s program was in St. Johnsbury.
Emcee for “Evening Without” is Allen Gilbert, executive director of the ACLU-VT. Gilbert will put the readings into their historical context, weaving together the story of challenges to — or bannings of — the works.
Featured readers for this year’s event are:
• Chris Bohjalian of Lincoln, novelist, columnist and essayist
• Kathryn Davis of Montpelier, novelist and writer in residence at Washington University in St. Louis
• Ron Powers of Castleton, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, novelist and nonfiction writer
• Tanya Lee Stone of South Burlington, author of fiction and nonfiction for children and teens
• James M. Tabor of Waitsfield, novelist and nonfiction writer
• Ashley Wolff of Leicester, author and illustrator of children’s picture books
• Dana Yeaton of Middlebury, playwright and professor at Middlebury College
Authors whose works will be read:
• Maya Angelou (1928-2014) was perhaps best known for her 1970 autobiography, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” an account of growing up black and female in segregated Arkansas, but she was also a poet and screenwriter. Frequent challenges to her work, in part prompted by an account of a childhood rape and by her use of sexual imagery, have assured her a spot on the American Library Association’s list of most banned authors of the 21st century.
• Toni Morrison (b. 1931) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1993. She is a novelist, editor and playwright proud to be known as “a black woman writer.” Her work has drawn repeated challenges, with three of her works represented on the ALA’s list of the Top 100 Banned and Challenged Classics (“Beloved,” No. 7; “Song of Solomon,” No. 25; and “Jazz,” No. 56).
• George Orwell (1903-1950) was a British author whose works criticized abuses of power and totalitarianism. His novels “Animal Farm” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four” have both appeared frequently on challenged and banned book lists.
• Katherine Paterson (b. 1932) lives in Vermont and has won multiple awards for her work but has also often found her work the target of censorship. Her Newbery Medal-winning “Bridge to Terabithia” landed on the ALA’s Top 10 Challenged Books of the Year list as recently as 2003, 26 years after publication.
• John Steinbeck (1902-1968) was an American novelist, winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1940 for “The Grapes of Wrath” (which holds third place on the ALA’s list of most-banned classics). He also received the 1962 Nobel Prize for literature “for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception.”
• Mark Twain (1835-1910) was a novelist, humorist, travel writer and lecturer. His classic novels “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” are among the most widely banned or censored books in the United States.
• Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007) was an American novelist known for his satirical science fiction works with strong humanist themes. His works have been challenged on political, religious, sexual and social grounds. “Slaughterhouse-Five” has evoked strong feelings since its publication, leading to frequent censorship attempts.
For more information, visit acluvt.org.
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