In 1965, Naked Lunch by William Burroughs was banned in the city of Boston after the Boston Superior Court labeled it as obscene. The decision was overturned in 1966. This, along with several other banned books, like War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, will be on display in O’Neill Library next week.
From Sunday, Sept. 27 until Saturday, Oct. 3, O’Neill Library will present a display of almost 100 banned books from the Library’s collection in honor of Banned Books Week, a national event promoted by the American Library Association. This is Boston College’s first time participating in the event, which has been held annually since 1982.
The display in O’Neill, which was designed and created entirely by the Access Services Marketing Committee, has been in the works since June, according to committee co-chair Cindy Jones. The event is meant to increase awareness about freedom of speech and freedom of the press, especially in terms of literature.
Throughout the 2015-16 academic year, the Access Services Marketing Committee plans to put together more displays in O’Neill Library. The committee is currently hoping to compile an exhibit of books recommended over the years by Rev. William B. Neenan, S.J., a former dean of faculties at BC who passed away in June 2014. The committee is currently waiting for approval before beginning this project.
Through social media, BC students can become engaged in the Banned Books Week event by taking a picture with one of the banned books in front of the Booking Wall in O’Neill Library. Once shared on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #BCReadsBannedBooks, students will be entered to win one of five prizes.
The books in the display are of a variety of genres, including science fiction, historical fiction, and fantasy. The books have been challenged or banned over the years for a number of reasons. The Call of the Wild by Jack London, for example, has been challenged for being too bloody, violent, and dark, said Ashley Chasse, the Access Services Marketing Committee co-chair.
Jones said it is usually a parent or group of parents concerned about a particular book’s topics or themes that are involved in the effort to have it banned.
“That would go something like this: a parent complains, the school librarian/teacher stops reading it, the school committee meets and decides what to do,” Jones said in an e-mail. “If they allow the book, it’s only been challenged. If they agree with the parent and remove the book from the school classrooms and library, it’s been banned.”
The Banned Books Week event also provides the library with an opportunity to showcase a portion of its expansive collection of books. All books presented in the display are available in the library for checkout.
“We have a great collection of books—not just those for academics,” Chasse said.
Featured Image by Breck Wills / Heights Graphic