What banned book are you reading this week? Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is always a favorite, along with Things Fall Apart, The Grapes of Wrath and Brave New World. You know, the classics. NBD. If you're fresh out of banned titles, a high school in Dallas helped us all out this week by offering up seven more options by pulling the following books from any classroom: Siddhartha, Song of Solomon, The Working Poor: Invisible in America, The Glass Castle, An Abundance of Katherines, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and The Art of Racing in the Rain. Thanks, Highland Park High!
For those of us with Very Dangerous Taste in Books, the celebration is going on all week long over at Brazos Bookstore, where they will cap off the week with their annual "Read Dangerously" party on Saturday, September 27 -- and you're invited.
If you love controversial literature, Saint Arnold beer and Houston Dairy Maids' cheese, this party is for you. "We're having a day-long celebration of banned books to cap off an entire week of promoting banned books," said Brazos Bookstore's event coordinator, Benjamin Rybeck, as he gestured toward the store's cheeky display, complete with caution tape.
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"Our website features staff picks for banned books, and we'll have new features go up all week long." The party starts at 2 p.m. this Saturday, when partygoers will have the opportunity to observe Workhorse Printmakers/Spindletop Design do their thing, creating limited-edition posters celebrating banned books on an on-site letterpress. From 6 p.m. onward, members of the University of Houston creative writing community will be reading excerpts from a selection of banned books. (That's when they break out the beer and cheese, too.)
"The reading is a new component for our Banned Books party," explained Rybeck. "We're co-hosting with Gulf Coast [Magazine]. Workhorse/Spindletop do amazing stuff with letterpresses and all of these kind of wonderful machines. I asked them about the posters, and they told me they are going to be political, revolutionary, with a goal of sparking some action about banned books."
If you're like me, you find banned books lists a great place to start looking for reading recommendations. The bookstore staff put together a fine list of recommended banned books themselves. "I wrote about The Giver," said Rybeck. "It seems to me that the exact kind of young-adult novel that gets banned for being 'dangerous' ends up being the exact kind of novel that would wind up making a teenager read more books, and read more deeply. I don't know if it's my favorite banned book, but I remember reading it as a teenager and being kind of blown away, not knowing books could ask darker or stranger questions."
Indeed, if you have dark and strange questions that can only be answered with the kinds of dangerous words that will get you banned in North Texas, do stop by Brazos Bookstore on Saturday. Absolutely nothing pairs better with fighting censorship than beer and cheese.