Photos By Franz Mahr, Words By Jenn Tisdale
Filthy, trashy, profane, and sexually explicit are just a few choice words used to describe books on the Banned Books list. Those are words I actually look for in a novel so we seem to have reached an impasse, or an impossible rather. It’s impossible to understand why Roald Dahl’s The Witches is on the banned books list. It makes a bit more sense that A Clockwork Orange is, but still.
For a country that loves throwing out First Amendment rights as often as we do, it’s hard to imagine a banned books list still exists (does someone perform an annual séance where Joseph McCarthy is asked which books are a no-go?) but alas, it does. To remind folks this archaic practice still exists libraries all over the country participate in Banned Books Week.
This year the DC Public Library is doing something a little different, kicking things off with a social media scavenger hunt. As of RIGHT NOW a selection of hundreds of banned books have been hidden throughout the city (like Goonies! except the treasure is free speech). Leave no stone unturned including bookstores, coffee shops, public spaces and maybe check out some of their partners: Compass Coffee, Politics & Prose, Petworth Citizen, Zaytinya, Proper Topper, Upshur Street Books. Clues will be revealed via the DCPL’s social media accounts (Twitter! Instagram!). Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is take a picture of the banned book you found (see below for their special covers!) and post the photo to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #UNCENSOREDDC. The winners will be be notified by September 23. But wait, WHAT DO YOU WIN? Glad you asked. You’ll get a pair of tickets to UNCENSORED: The Cocktail Party on September 30.
It’s one of my favorite events of the year. Last year I was the host and only made one weird Roman statue penis joke in front of former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams (had to stay on theme by not censoring myself). This year all sorts of extra love is going into the event including a sneak peek at “And Now the World Knows,” an art exhibition by D.C. artist Adrienne Gaither as well as 8 literary cocktails inspired by banned books. If you’re crafty (like the movie The Craft) you can customize your own cufflinks and earrings at the Fab Lab station. And perhaps my favorite part, Soul & Ink will be doing live screen printing of your favorite banned books reasons. I can’t wait to wear a T-shirt that reads TRASHY, PROFANE, SEXUALLY EXPLICIT. It’s very on #brand for me.
The party is just the tip of the banned books iceberg. The DC Public Library has organized a ton of amazing events throughout the city. I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting some of my faves but you should absolutely check out their full calendar here. This year marks the 100th birthday of Roald Dahl (HOW IS HE ON ANY BANNED BOOKS LIST?) so head to the Mt. Pleasant Library on Monday for Reader’s Theatre and a reading of The Enormous Crocodile! After you’ve reveled in your childhood for a bit take in a movie at the Francis A. Gregory Library for their Banned Books to Films Series. If you’re like me you’ll freak out about the fact that Harry Potter and the Sorcer’s Stone is on this list. I’m really looking forward to the History/Biography Book Club at the Shepherd Park (Juanita E. Thornton) Library where discussion of Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (very apropos) will take place.
Tickets for the cocktail party are on sale so if you miss out on the scavenger hunt, don’t despair! Good luck! And remember, the only thing we have to free is speech itself (or something).