Banned books sidestep debate

Over 1,500 books were targeted for censorship in 2021, according to the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom, more than the association has seen since they first tracked the statistic in 1957.

The majority of those complaints are sourced from parents and community leaders who want children’s books which address gender, race, or sexuality removed from school curricula and libraries. It begs the question: how can children who are shielded from discussing race, sex or gender mature into adults who speak up in the face of workplace discrimination, or advocate for equal pay, or recognize that “Adolph the Wolf” is cousin to “The Cat in the Hat?”

National Banned Book Week is coming up Sept. 18-24, yet the San Diego County Library system, with branches planted from Potrero to La Mesa, does not have anything on the calendar to even suggest a celebratory week.

San Diego’s library system is equally quiet on the subject although they held events related to banned book week in 2021. Possibly, they didn’t plan anything in this transitional year.

Just as possible: the pushback against censorship is presented with a whisper befitting a library. Housing “Dear America” under the same roof as “Survival in Auschwitz” opens a conversation about nationalism and humanity which relies on guttural history and current events in place of lofty talking points. The personal narrative of anyone kept in, kept out or kept down is more brutal than any conjured up plot line and has the power to launch a conversation that could change public policy. Shelving those stories laced with profanity next to the ones with more innocent language is a form of inclusion, but also quietly answers braying demands for censorship with a resounding silence. There might not be a long list of events in honor of Banned Books Week but the books themselves are on the shelves in hardcover and e-book formats.

Why give the bullies power?

Instead, Alpine Library Friends Association President Deborah Verfaillie said the little used bookstore tucked alongside the county branch library in the relatively conservative neighborhood will feature banned books Sept. 18 through 24. The county library system included “The Magic Fish” among the year’s One Book, One San Diego choices, a graphic novel which is essentially about gender, self-identity and the desperate love of family— the same novel found in Santee, Pine Valley and Lemon Grove was chosen to “bring the community closer together” without ever mentioning banned books.

Chula Vista library’s RUTH exhibit is a multimedia gathering of local holocaust survivor stories that circumvent any debate on whether “The Diary of Anne Frank” is appropriate reading. The books themselves are there in place of any question on their value, quietly standing sentry over history and reason, deftly planted so residents can decide for themselves what to read.

In the meantime, the libraries continue with a wide variety of programming for everyone.

  • The Alpine library will be upcycling old paperback books into hedgehogs on Sept. 10 from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m. All ages are welcome for this intergenerational craft session.
  • A tech drop-in for adults is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.- 12 p.m. on Sept. 15 in Alpine, where library staff can assist users with downloading free magazines and books through the Libby application.
  • Certified Master Graphologist Paula Sassi will reveal handwriting secrets to help identify whether a writer has a tendency to lie, cheat or steal. Attendees can learn how to solve cases using handwriting analysis on Sept. 22 from 6-7 p.m. at the Alpine library.
  • On Sept. 27, Alpine Fire Marshal Jason McBroom will present a Fire Preparedness informational lecture from 6-7 p.m.
  • Alpine’s Kingdom Quilters welcomes club newbies from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 and the Mystery Book Club will meet on Sept. 20 from 5:30- 6:30 p.m.
  • Backcountry residents are invited to learn the basics of using a Google ChromeBook, personal computer or handheld devices from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. on Sept. 8 at the Campo-Moreno branch library. Limited numbers of ChromeBooks and WiFi devices to supply internet access are available for checkout.
  • Teens are invited to drop by the Descanso library after school for the Teen Makerspace. Teens can create a different S.T.E.A.M. project each week or just hang out with friends from 3-5pm every day.
  • The Pine Valley library offers a kids’ craft session every Thursday from 4-5 p.m.
  • For adults, the Pine Valley library is hosting a Bingo night from 5-6 p.m. on Sept. 27.

Visit www.sdcl.org for information on these and other San Diego county branch library events happening in September.

You can email jessica@integritynews. us with comments and suggestions.

Banned books sidestep debate

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