You might be thinking, “What do banned books have to do with gender and women’s studies?” Actually… a lot!
We’re sure you have heard of Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. What you may not know is that Morrison won the 1977 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction for Song of Solomon. The novel continues to appear on banned books lists decades after it was published. A successful attempt to ban Morrison’s novel was executed as recently as 2010. The University of Texas at Arlington hosted a virtual read-out last September. You can view a banned books day reading of an excerpt from Song of Solomon online.
There are many reasons why individuals and institutions attempt to ban books: sexual content, violence, and profanity are just a few of them. Book banning and censorship happen when an individual or group finds a piece of writing offensive or “inappropriate.” There are often differing opinions on what should or shouldn’t be banned. One topic within the debate about book banning is the cultural or social importance of presenting issues and experiences in novels that could be deemed offensive or even distasteful, yet also serves as a teaching tool. The language used when describing the decision to ban a book can be loaded with emotion and also subjective judgment and individual perception.
Why do the books that we love have the potential to be banned? How do banned books also happen to win awards and garner praise? An important aspect of writing and book publishing is the conversations that can come from books.
Since it is a week to celebrate books and dialogue, we hope you’ll join us tonight to celebrate an outstanding book that has sparked conversation about timely global issues. The Kafka Prize Presentation and Reception with Amy Waldman for her novel The Submission will begin at 5pm at the Interfaith Chapel, University of Rochester River Campus.