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Banned Books Events Shine Light on Censorship for Cultural Reasons

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Books in America have been censored for a variety of reasons: sexual content, violence, offensive content… and even depicting life that doesn’t seem quite “American”. Banned Books week took a look at some of the examples and the issues they raise.

Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible man” tells the story of a black man who felt completely invisible living in what he considered to be a white-world.

“One night I accidently bumped into a man and perhaps because of the near darkness he saw me and called me an insulting name. I sprang at him, seized his coat lapel and demanded he apologize. His breath hot in my face as he struggled, I pulled his chin down sharp upon the crown of my head.”

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Readings at an SU event highlighted sections of books that some found offensive enough to ban the books.

Ellison’s book was challenged for its violence… but in contrast, “tar beach”, written by African American author Faith Ringgold, tells the story of an 8-year-old girl’s dream to fly above her neighborhood in Harlem.

“I can fly , yes fly, me Cassie Louise Lightfoot, only 8 years old in the 3rd grade. That means I’m free to go wherever I want to”

An elementary school attempted to ban the book because it had pictures of black people drinking beer and eating fried chicken. Syracuse University student, Julie Alison says no matter the content, it’s important for people to have access to different information.

"It kind makes you think why would the government want to ban something like that, especially with free speech why would you want to ban something, just let everyone read it and form their own opinions."

S.U. professor of African American Studies Joan Bryant says a lot of books are banned because they go against the classic view of what America “should” look like.

“One of the more interesting books is an alphabet book about Swahili. Someone challenged it because they said it was dismissive of American culture by teaching the alphabet of the Swahili language”

This is the 3rd  year in a row the Black Syracuse Project has put on the “black banned” series as part of Banned Books Week.

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.