After a decade of the idea circulating through library circles, Reference Assistant Risa Brown, brought TXWES Reads 1984 to campus this semester.
“We thought that a campuswide read would help us [get more involved in the Wesleyan community], so we could pull in students, staff, and faculty to discuss things with us,” Brown said. “Hopefully to become a more viable part to the Texas Wesleyan community.”
Brown has organized campuswide reading events called TXWES Reads 1984 that will go throughout the year. The goal is to get a good-sized group of people reading the novel “1984” by George Orwell and to promote discussions.
Brown picked the book because she thought it would invoke conversation with its imagined society with no rights whatsoever.
“The reason that this country was founded was for us to pursue the things that make us human, and “1984” shows how the complete opposite looks,” Brown said. “I think it shows how taking away rights a little at a time will ultimately result in no rights at all. [In the] current political climate we [are] perceiving that our rights are being eroded, and we want to try to stop that in its tracks and say this is what’s at stake. Mainly it [the choice of “1984”] was just to get some good conversation.”
The second event, Lunch-N-Lecture: Banned! Censored! Challenged!: “1984”’s Complicated Relationship with Libraries, occurred Tuesday during free period in the Eunice and James L. West Library Orientation Room. Lunch was provided to attendees as ten reasons why books are banned and five reasons why they should not be banned were discussed in a presentation lead by Brown.
“As a banned book “1984” made perfect sense, because it has been so frequently talked about in banned book circles,” Brown said. “Then once I started thinking about banned books in general, I thought there are lots of fun examples of all kinds of reasons that books are challenged and asked to be removed from curriculum and library shelves. I thought we could do a meaningful discussion of both: banned books in general and “1984”, and it was fun to work on.”
Brown worked to compile her information through research that combined the American Library Association’s banned book lists and other articles discussing the sometimes-frivolous reasons for banning books. Reference and Instruction Librarian Marquel Anteola wanted to support Brown by going to her event.
“I know that she’s been working really hard on this presentation, so I wanted to come and support her,” Anteola said. “I was also interested in seeing the main reasons why books are usually challenged or banned, and seeing some ways of how librarians and parents have approached that. My oldest daughter just started kindergarten, so I’m feeling like that [the banned book issue] might be something that will happen in her schooling over the years. But, I was also curious of reasons why not to ban books.”
Senior history major Clark Williams also came to the event, because of his interest in the TXWES Reads “1984” events.
“I always enjoyed reading, and I enjoy coming to whatever events on campus that I’m able to attend,” Williams said. “I was interested in this one, because it had to do with TXWES Reads “1984.” This one sort of correlates with it, so I was interested in it.”
Both Williams and Anteola attended and enjoyed the TXWES Reads! Kick-off, which included a reading of the book to an audience of students, staff and faculty on Sept. 26.
“I think it [the banned books event] went really great,” Anteola said. “There was good discussion and even free food.”
Clark appreciates the choice of “1984” as the book and has read it multiple times for high school and college classes. He can relate to certain aspects of the book after traveling and living in Russia.
“It’s got many different aspects to it that you can really relate to society in general in respects to talking about a totalitarian government,” Williams said.
Brown’s specific goal of the banned books event was to get people thinking and teach them something new.
“It was fun and I enjoyed it a lot,” Brown said. “I felt like the people who came responded in such a way that I felt like they came away with something they didn’t know before. [My goal was to] have a little snippet of information that would make someone think ‘Really? That really happen?’”
Anteola came away with a better grasp on the parent perspective on banned books.
“As a librarian, I do feel that people should have the freedom to read, and the freedom to read whatever they choose,” Anteola said. “Part of the thing that I did take away from a parent’s standpoint is that I think this content is too old for my child. I don’t want them to read it right now, but maybe it will be appropriate for them later on.”
Anteola, Williams, and Brown all agreed that banned books is something that should be discussed.
“Banned books are important to talk about, because the First Amendment of the constitution guarantees not only the right to publish, but also the right to read anything that you choose to read,” Brown said. “If anybody thinks about the U.S., they think, ‘Yeah, I can read anything that I want to’ [when] there are times that even law becomes eroded either through public opinion or through the natural process of things. I think the American Library Association was smart to identify this as a right that we could highlight, talk about once a year, and hopefully preserve as things go along.”
The next TXWES Reads “1984” event will be an all-day movie marathon of “1984” on Dec. 7 in the Eunice and James L. West Library.