ACLU's Banned Book Reading

CMU kids like to take risks. According to the facebook, 287 CMU students list The Catcher in the Rye as one of their favorite books. More than 500 like Catch-22; the same goes for 1984.

Coincidentally, all of these books distracting students from their programming homework were at some point in their literary careers banned. Yes, banned. Deemed offensive, inappropriate, unsuitable, and likely to corrupt minors.

Maybe CMU kids do know how to get wild on a Saturday night.

Last Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh recently had a night to ?celebrate our right to read.? But this wasn?t any ordinary book chat. This one was replete with sex, racism, fetishes, and talking animals. At the 10th Annual Banned Books Reading, the ACLU and Carnegie Library gathered local celebrities and free-thinking citizens alike to ?oppose the censorship? placed on perennial favorites like The Great Gatsby, A Clockwork Orange, and Where the Sidewalk
Ends. Who knew Shel Silverstein had it so rough?

WQED producer and familiar voiceover actor Rick Sebak emceed the event, which began with radio personality and Annie Lennox lookalike Jan Beatty. Beatty read poems by Allen Ginsberg, a poet whose work had her thrown off Pittsburgh radio years earlier. Beatty has since returned as part of WYEP-FM?s ?Prosody.? Jim Ferlo, a Pennsylvania state senator who loves libraries, read from Walt Whitman?s Leaves of Grass.

Current political events underscored the evening of
classic literature. Tim Stevens, prior to reading a chapter from Richard Wright?s Native Son, reminded the audience of
racism?s pulse still beating in the United States. Hurricane
Katrina and its failed relief effort have shown us ?how
far we have come in not coming forward,? Stevens said
to applause. Also earning support from the audience was all bashing of President Bush?s PATRIOT Act, an act that can force librarians to turn over private client
information to the government. Now really, what were you doing with that encyclopedia on pre-imperialist China? Planning to mimic their tactics, no doubt!

Bruce Boni, vice-president of programs and public education for the ACLU?s Pittsburgh chapter, recognized the ironically Orwellian aspects of the current government. Reading an article of the PATRIOT Act, Boni reminded the audience that he had not just read an excerpt from Orwell?s 1984. (If you?re among the 500-odd students who haven?t read that one, in it, Orwell depicts a society in which all citizens are spied on by an all-seeing ?Big Brother.? (Yes, like the TV show.)

All of the speakers advocated the importance of resisting movements that try to censor art because it may be unorthodox or dissenting. The Banned Books Reading underscored that as long as there are readers, there will be censorship. And as long as there is censorship, there will be people to say ?no.? At the very least, the true
freedom fighters are not going away.