One of several Banned Books Week displays at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick features frequently banned books, including “Harry Potter,” “Stamped” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” Photo courtesy of Wynter Giddings

As schools and libraries around the country face more and more pressure to ban books exploring topics of race, gender and sexuality, Curtis Memorial Library is inviting community members to stand against censorship.

Twenty-four volunteer readers, including authors, college professors and local students, will share excerpts from controversial books Wednesday afternoon as part of the Brunswick library’s Banned Books Week programming.

“(Censorship) is just providing an unnecessary shield for people by not teaching them about things they may not have experienced,” said Brunswick High School junior Jonas McGrath, who will participate in the Readout at 3 p.m. Wednesday. “I think it’s very important that we get a different perspective than our own.”

Launched in 1982, Banned Books Week is a national campaign sponsored by a coalition of organizations devoted to promoting reading and free expression, including the American Library Association, Amnesty International and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. The event’s website lists dozens of talks, readings, plays and more taking place this week online and in-person across the country.

The threat of censorship has grown in recent years, as conservative groups such as Moms for Liberty and No Left Turn in Education have led grass-roots efforts to remove books from library shelves, according to Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom at the American Library Association.

“We’re seeing an effort to remove books that reflect the voices and the experiences of traditionally marginalized groups in our society,” said Caldwell-Stone, who called attempts to limit reading choices “deeply anti-democratic.” “These groups have had a great deal of success in imposing their agenda on school districts.”


According to the American Library Association, which tracks attempts to remove books from school, university and public libraries, there were 681 attempted bans or restrictions targeting 1,651 unique titles between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31. That’s on pace to beat last year’s 729 attempted bans, which was the most since the association began compiling its list in 2000.

Books written by black or LGBTQ authors face the most challenges, according to the association. The most challenged book of 2021 was “Gender Queer,” a memoir by cartoonist Maia Kobabe.

As in past years, Curtis has set up multiple displays of titles that opponents have fought to keep out of schools and public libraries. Curtis is also giving away free copies of five frequently banned titles, including Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five,” which has faced criticism for its sexual content, violence and language; and Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye,” which has been challenged for its depiction of child abuse.

In response to the growing push for censorship, which according to Curtis librarian and Maine Library Association President Wynter Giddings already has spread to three Maine school districts so far this school year, the library staff added Wednesday’s Readout to the 2022 edition of Banned Books Week.

Giddings, who will kick off the event with a passage from George Orwell’s “1984,” said fighting censorship isn’t about adopting liberal positions but supporting intellectual freedom.

“We completely understand that certain topics are controversial,” she said. “We’re not really advocating for those topics. What we’re advocating for is the freedom for a person to access information, read about it and make up their own mind.”

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