Students, faculty, staff, and even one campus visitor were all caught off guard as several of our LMU librarians and library staff read a notable banned book, I Am Jazz, out loud right in front of the Lair on September 25. This was the main event of Banned Books Week, an annual event that focuses on celebrating the freedom to read. Banned Books Week brings together many different people, from different walks of life, all to celebrate and show support for the freedom to learn and express ideas, even if they are considered unpopular or unconventional.
“What this is a great book?! How could it possibly be banned?” This was the reaction that we got from not only students but also staff members upon seeing the banned books we had displayed on the table. Some of the most shocking titles that have been banned throughout different school districts include The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Looking for Alaska, and multiple Dr. Seuss books. These books have been banned for one reason or another most of which are nonsensical, even though these books are synonymous with childhood.
This year, the library staff decided to highlight I Am Jazz, written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, the story of a transgender child based on the real-life experience of Jazz Jennings, who has become a spokesperson for transgender children everywhere. Since being published in 2014, this book has faced a ton of controversy as it mentions the word “transgender.” A part of this year’s Banned Books Week, a group of library staff decided that it would be most impactful to read I Am Jazz in its entirety out loud. Not only were they attempting to bring attention to banned books but also they were attempting to destigmatize certain issues that are very rarely talked about, especially among children.
One new staff member came up to the table and expressed her gratitude that we were all there and participating in such an event. A few moments later, we were talking about how she moved to LMU from a university in Wisconsin where a transgender student was openly mocked and forcibly outed during a visiting speaker’s presentation. She said that during that time it was hard to deal with the way people were talking about transgender issues and it was refreshing to hear a school openly talk about these issues, especially regarding children.
Last year, I was a part of Banned Books Week. I had the chance to read The Great Gatsby, another book that has been banned, out loud in the William H. Hannon Library lobby, and while students stopped and talked to me, this year had a much larger impact. There were numerous students that stopped at the table and were surprised that it was Banned Books Week. Overall the group reading by the Lair reached more students and was influential in bringing awareness to the fact that we have the f-READ-om to read.
Today’s post was written by library student ambassador Taylor Clark. Taylor is a sophomore Psychology and Sociology double major at LMU. Thank you, Taylor!