Crack open a banned book, become a rebel. The Waynesburg University Writing Center is hosting events all month to celebrate Banned Books Week. The Writing Center is asking for anyone to join. Social media is one way to fight back.
“We’re asking anyone who is interested in submitting a selfie with a banned book to participate,” Stefanie Wielkopolan, Writing Center Administrator said. “We would love campus wide participation. Anyone interested can email me their photo to my email [Stefanie.firstname.lastname@example.org].”
Banned Books Week celebrates freedom to read and write as one chooses.
The Writing Center has already had a guest speaker share on behalf of banned content in other countries. The guest speaker, introduced as Rama to hide their real identity for safety reasons, shared their story on Sept. 23, 2021 in the GPAC at 11 a.m. However, this was not the only time freedoms have been challenged.
“In Toronto, people burned books that contained the n-word because they thought it was inappropriate, and that’s one of the reasons why “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” [by Mark Twain] has been banned continuously,” Jill Moyer-Sunday, Director of The Writing Center and Chair of the English Department, said. “We have to look at this as contextual history, and the fact that these words were used as slurs and we need to be aware that they were slurs.”
Banning books is considered a form of cancel culture.
“People are worried about how the ideas might lead them astray or give them ideas about alternative lifestyles or belief systems that they don’t condone,“ Moyer-Sunday said.
Moyer-Sunday went on to talk about the book called “And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.The story is about two male penguins finding an abandoned egg, and deciding to work together to raise a baby penguin. The children’s story was based on real life penguins.
Some people worry about what this book could be perceived as teaching to the younger generation, however Moyer-Sunday believes that children would only be focused on the “love and compassion” between the penguin parents and the egg. Surviving is their only goal.
Rea Redd, Director of the Eberly Library, Librarian IV and Professor, had some insight to this particular topic. “Books capture the humanity in people that sometimes get lost in the speed of modern culture.” He goes on to mention that reading is a skill. “ You have to supply yourself with the right questions to ask in literature, [otherwise the lesson of the book is lost].”
The Writing Center hopes to address these issues in society.
“Our goal is to celebrate diverse voices, opinions, and ideas. At the Writing Center, we want to ensure that everyone’s freedom to express their own thoughts and creativity are preserved and not censored,” Wielkopolan said. “Being exposed to a wide range of stories enhances a person’s outlook on life. Words bring us together. When words are censored and filtered to portray one opinion or one view about life, divisiveness and ignorance become the by-product, and that by-product is dangerous on many levels.”
The Writing Center is also hosting a Banned Books Contest, “Books Unite Us, Censorship Divides Us.” The contest submissions are due Oct. 8, 2021.
In past years, the top three winners got Banned Books paraphernalia such as mugs, pencil cases and a collection of banned books. The Writing Center hasn’t announced what the prizes will be this year, but Moyer-Sunday was adamant that they would be worth it.
In addition to the Banned Books contest, the Writing Center is currently holding a creative writing group on Thursdays at 4 p.m. in the library in their regular location, 3rd floor.
“This is a space for all students and writers to gather to write, share their work, and discuss writing in a supportive and fun environment,” Wielkopolan said. “This group will meet every Thursday through Nov. 11. It’s a drop-in based group so please stop in at any time! We would love new members.“