On Tuesday, November 7, in front of an intimate gathering of colleagues, friends, and family, Dr. Carla Hayden, this country’s 14th Librarian of Congress, received the 2017 Women’s National Book Association Award for her “meritorious work in the world of books.” When Dr. Hayden was sworn-in to her position on September 14, 2016 under the administration of Barack Obama, she became the first African American to lead the Library of Congress, which today is “widely known for its free, non-partisan service to Congress, librarians, scholars, and the public—in the United States and around the world.” Continue reading “Dr. Carla Hayden, 14th Librarian of Congress, receives the Women’s National Book Association Award”
Gender-based inequality has long been an issue in the arts. As we learned from VIDA in last Wednesday’s Link of the Week, women make up 80 per cent of the publishing workforce, yet they are underrepresented as reviewers, byline-holders, and writers. Pen + Brush recognizes this disparity, and works to effect real change for emerging and mid-career female artists and writers. Continue reading “Link of the Week | Pen + Brush”
Banned Books Week
September 24–30, 2017
We’re halfway through Banned Books Week, an event that celebrates people’s right to read and reiterates the importance of the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
According to the American Library Association, to challenge a book is to “attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.”
Books have been challenged/banned in the United States since the publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852 when the anti-slavery novel was deemed inappropriate for popular consumption because of its pro-abolitionist message. (In case you missed it, Monday’s blog kicked off #BannedBooksWeek with a post on the woman who started it all: Harriet Beecher Stowe.)
The practice of book banning continued well into the 1920s after Anthony Comstock, then a well-known politician, helped push a law through Congress that banned “obscene literature” from being sent in the mail (his definition of “pornography” extended so far as to include Medieval works like The Canterbury Tales). Influential court cases, however, like The United States v. One Book Called Ulysses in 1933 and Roth vs. The United States in 1957, combined with the social revolutions of the 60s and 70s, made room in the market for books with strong language and depictions of sex and violence.
While some challenged titles may be not surprise you – E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey made the American Library Associations’ Top 10 Most Challenged Books List in 2015 – others may cause your eyebrows to lift. Charlotte’s Web, for example, by E.B. White, Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling, The Giving Tree, by Shell Silverstein, and Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak, all faced parental pushback upon publication.
The Library of Congress has also put together a list of books that have been banned/challenged over the years that “have had a profound effect on American life.” In 1885, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain’s beloved American classic, was deemed “trash and suitable only for the slums.” In the 60s, The Autobiography of Malcolm X , Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird faced similar vitriol.
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki was the number one challenged title of 2016 because of its “LGBT characters, drug use and profanity,” and sexual content. The book went on to become a New York Times bestseller, a 2015 Caldecott Honor Book, a 2015 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, and an Eisner Award Winner.
NYC’s Strand Bookstore has assembled a special table for banned books this week. Did your favorite make the list?
A little over a year into her position as the 14th Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden continues to make content digitization and social media outreach of the Library of Congress priorities.
The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, filled with an impressive archive of magazines, books, and documents from the lives of prominent Americans dating back to its founding in 1800. Though it’s open to the public, nothing in the library may be taken out. To make library materials more accessible to the public, Hayden has doubled-down on continuing work with The Internet Archive in their ongoing efforts to digitize the contents of their library (so far they’re a little over 16 years into the process). Some of their most famous collections to be scanned online so far range from the Rosa Park Papers to the Abraham Lincoln Papers.
She also has made it a point to have more of a social media presence to include more people in what goes on at the national library, something new for a Librarian of Congress.
In a role historically given to white men, Hayden is the first black woman to be the Librarian of Congress, something that has given her the title of “radical librarian”—though she thinks that a woman holding this position reflects the workforce (85% of librarians are women) and that “leading the largest symbol of knowledge in the world is quite momentous” as a black woman when black people have historically been denied the right to read and were punished for doing so. Hayden’s achievements and dedication to this prestigious job is something she hopes will inspire black children that they can succeed in any area they feel passionate about.
Today, March 8th, is International Women’s Day! In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we thought we would celebrate by sharing the words of some amazing female authors. The Library of Congress’s Women’s History Month website has a selection of webcasts from their 2011 National Book Festival, which they have made available for the month of March. Follow this link to hear premier female authors discussing their books.