“This moment in the book, there is a lot going on….”
Heterick Memorial Library is normally a quiet place on any given weekday night. However, the sounds of laughter, clapping, and the question “Why?” hung in the air this September as Sigma Tau Delta, Ohio Northern University’s English honorary society, invited the campus community to dive into the literature that earned a special spot in American libraries and schools. In this case, “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger earned its time under the collective microscope of the group in attendance that night. Holden Caulfield, the main character of the book, is dealing with a very uncomfortable situation regarding a trusted professor, and Nicole Glaza, a senior music and literature student and the president of Sigma Tau Delta, tried to explain why “Catcher in the Rye” has earned a place on some schools’ and libraries’ banned book list.
The Banned Books Reading & Discussion is a fall tradition hosted by Sigma Tau Delta as a means of addressing the controversy surrounding the most classic works of literature. The value of this event was made clear by Rachel Cruea, a junior creative writing and literature student, after presenting some selections from “Howl” by poet Allen Ginsberg, and discussing the reason that particular collection of poetry was banned.
“People don’t want to deal with [the issues being presented in the work], so we ban it,” she said.
One of the themes common to many of the books that were read out loud during this event is that the authors of the works were dealing with issues concerning inequality and discrimination. Many of the authors chosen for this night were people that dealt with their sexuality, their experiences with racism or their experiences with injustice in the world in their works. Ricki Ervin, a senior creative writing and professional writing student, addressed this point after reading Sylvia Plath’s poem “Lesbos” & Emily Dickin son’s poem “It always felt to me — a wrong.”
“When you think about what people write about, they usually write about something that they feel strongly about…We should be writing about [issues of inequality and discrimination],” she said.
Another of the themes common to many of the books that were read during this event is that the authors of the works were dealing with coming-of-age issues that high-school students may experience before coming to college. Literature acts as a way for students to have a set of experiences through the written word.
Removing the books from schools and public libraries does damage to the community, according to Douglas Dowland, assistant professor of English and the advisor for Sigma Tau Delta.
“I think banning books does no one any good. It’s undemocratic, since it attempts to rob people of the right to choose what they read. Banning books will not make the books–or the ideas they contain–go away. Almost every enduring “classic” work of literature has been banned.”
Beyond the damage to the community, Dowland made the simple argument about the value of the books to the students that read those works.
“We take away a vocabulary if we banned these books,” he said.