Sunday through Sept. 28 is officially Banned Books Week. You’d figure such a celebration would include books with lots of sex, violence or profanity.

But at a Portland event marking Banned Books Week on Monday, Yarmouth middle school teacher Charlotte Agell will be reading from her illustrated children’s chapter book “The Accidental Adventures of India McAllister” (Macmillan Press).

The book is about a fourth-grader who lives in Maine with her mother. One town over lives her dad and his new partner, Richard.

Like a lot of books these days, Agell’s book has not necessarily been officially banned. But it has been challenged and denounced.

“I’ve seen reviews by people on Amazon where people call it ‘leftist’ and say that they don’t want books ‘introducing’ kids to this subject,” said Agell. “I know that sales reps say that in middle America, they have a hard time with this book.”

Agell will be among several authors scheduled to read books that have been the subject of controversy (though they may seem inoffensive to others) at a Space Gallery event called “We Read Banned Books.”

The event is organized by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine in collaboration with the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, the Portland Public Library and Space. The other authors at the event won’t necessarily read their own books, but a “challenged” book of their choosing.

Portland-based author and journalist Pat Taub, for instance, is scheduled to read from “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn. Author and magazine writer Elizabeth Peavey is scheduled to read from “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath. Local authors Martin Steingesser and Gibson Fay-Leblanc are also scheduled to read.

Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 by a variety of national groups to celebrate the “freedom to read” and to draw attention to challenges of books at all levels by groups who find something in the books that offends them.

The event in Portland is returning after a five-year hiatus. It’s not that book banners took over, it’s that Rachel Healy of the Maine ACLU left to work in Washington, D.C., for five years. The Space event was mostly her idea, and now that she’s back, so is the event.

Healy hopes that in a state like Maine, which is filled with authors who have moved here over the years, people will come and take time to listen to some “challenged books.”

And her greater hope is that they will think about what kinds of challenges book banning presents to all of our freedoms. “I think a lot of people probably don’t realize how many books are still being challenged, and how this issue of censorship is still with us,” said Healy. 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: RayRouthier






WHEN: 7 p.m. Monday

WHERE: Space Gallery,

538 Congress St., Portland




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