Banned Books Week 2019: A Student’s Perspective

Library student assistant KayleeToday’s posts was written by library student assistant, Kaylee Tokumi. Kaylee is a sophomore psychology major and English minor from Oahu, Hawaii. She loves creative writing and drawing. The following is a reflection of her experience installing the Banned Books Exhibition on Level 1 of the library. The exhibition will be on display September 2, 2019 – October 5, 2019.

Books have always been a central part of my life, so I am elated by the opportunity to work in the library. One of my first projects as a new student workers was installing the banned and challenged books exhibit, currently on display in the library lobby. Displaying banned and challenged books helps to educate others about the perils of censorship and the importance of maintaining intellectual freedom.

This year’s American Library Association list of the top 11 most banned or challenged books of 2018 includes a wide variety of texts, such as a volume from the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, and A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, a picture book about bunnies by Jill Twiss and EG Keller.

Armed with blue painter’s tape, my co-workers and I set to work on the exhibit installation. Being the newest student assistant and unfamiliar with the exhibit set-up process, I was surprised by the amount of work required to arrange the material and produce a cohesive viewing experience. There is great care put into the arrangement of covers, captions, and posters, among other behind-the-scene aspects.

While working, we had a Graphic Design II (ART 460) class drop by to the view the exhibit. It delighted me to see people interacting with the exhibit, even though it was still under construction. This particular class project is especially interesting – redesigning a banned/challenged book’s cover to more properly fit the book’s content (as opposed to designing it for marketing/promotional needs). The thought of redesigning book covers sparked my interest, because I love a well-designed cover, and I took a closer look at the banned/challenged books on display to see which covers I would want to design. When looking through the books, I was astounded by the number of banned and challenged books I recognized.

One of my favorite challenged books of 2018 is The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, a thought-provoking memoir about the Vietnam War. Although O’Brien’s poetic prose and heartfelt internal monologues were captivating, it was the author’s way of mixing fantasy and reality that really gripped me. He told stories, both fiction and not, then allowed readers to decide what the truth was for themselves. The idea of students being restricted from choosing to read this book, or perhaps not knowing that it even exists (e.g. by having it removed from circulation) is disheartening. Though it may seem dramatic, The Things They Carried changed my outlook on literature and life. It allowed me to think deeply about societal issues of the past and present, analyze the differences between acts of cowardice and bravery, and learn that the lines blurring fiction and reality are not as concrete as they may seem.

I believe it’s important that we give others the opportunity to access books with various perspectives and stories, even though we might not necessarily agree with its content ourselves. Reading a wide variety of books allows people to connect with others, share their problems, and find solutions to them. It allows us to experience the world and broaden our horizons.

Open your mind and flip through the pages of a banned/challenged book. A new adventure awaits you.