Peaceful protest in defense of one’s principles is one of the core American values, as I describe in United America. In the political arena, it’s called critical patriotism. How does this same spirit play out in the literary sphere?
How about a book club devoted to reading only banned or challenged books?
A group of students at Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago did just that. They call themselves “451 Degrees” in honor of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury’s book itself has been challenged and banned, which is ironic given that it describes a world where reading is forbidden and books are burned.
Members of 451 Degrees devote themselves to reading books that are challenged, controversial, or banned. The book club and the Lane Tech student body won the Illinois Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Award in 2013 for their protest of The Chicago Public School’s banning of Persepolis, a book by Marjame Satrapi. (Read more about the award here.)
Later this month, the American Library Association (ALA) is hosting its annual Banned Books Week (September 21–27, 2014). If you want to participate, you can. The ALA is inviting readers to make and post videos on the Virtual Read-Out YouTube channel in support of intellectual freedom. You can read from a banned book, or discuss a banned book and what it means to you. Celebrity videos are featured on the Banned Books Week Virtual Read-Out. (Want to participate? Here’s the Banned Book Week Virtual Readout page with information for participants and links to earlier videos.)
What do you think of the 451 Degrees book club?
Would you support a similar club in your local school?
Do you plan to participate in this year’s Banned Books Week?
Enjoy this brief video that served as the official Banned Book Week Video Trailer last year …