[ skip to content ]

More Information about this image

You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Celebrate Constitution Day and Banned Books Week at Perry Library on Sept. 23

The popular "Harry Potter" fantasy series shares a controversial commonality with American literary classics "The Bluest Eye," "Slaughterhouse-Five," and "Huckleberry Finn" that may not be readily apparent. These titles are four of the most frequently banned books from U.S. public schools and libraries.

To draw attention to the issue of censorship and banned books, the Old Dominion University College of Arts and Letters and University Libraries will present two events on Sept. 23 in conjunction with Constitution and Citizenship Day and Banned Books Week.

Both of the following events will be held at the Patricia W. and J. Douglas Perry Library and are free and open to the public:

  • Read a Banned Book! On Sept. 23, 2014, from 12:30 - 1:20 p.m. at the Learning Commons, stop by to join celebrities, authors and readers across the country in "virtual read-outs" of banned books passages from any of the "Top 100 Most Challenged" books due to sexual content, racism, violence, religion, magic, LGBT, language or other criteria. The readings will be recorded and select passages broadcast in the library during the annual event next year.
  • Burn the Books: The Fight for Free Expression will be held at 7 p.m. in rooms 1310 and 1311 of the Learning Commons. This panel discussion asks what it takes to get a book banned, who is challenging and how censorship affects everyone. Come early for a reception at 6:30 p.m. in front of the Learning Commons.

The "Burn the Books: The Fight for Free Expression" panel discussion will feature keynote speaker Alicia Defonzo, an instructor in ODU's Department of English and panelists: KaaVonia Hinton-Johnson, associate professor, Department of Teaching and Learning Education; Elizabeth Groeneveld, assistant professor, Department of Women's Studies; Shenita Brazelton, assistant professor, Department of Political Science and Geography; and Lucinda Rush, Education Reference Services Librarian. Elizabeth Esinhart, director of Interdisciplinary Studies, will moderate the discussion.

While images of book burnings seem like distant history, even in 2014 hundreds of book titles are still challenged each year, and often banned, in public schools and libraries. Panelists will explore: Who can challenge a book? How does a book's popularity affect challenges? Where does intellectual freedom end and censorship begin? What does the First Amendment's free expression clause really mean?

Defonzo will discuss the most notorious case of book burning in public schools: "Slaughterhouse-Five" at Drake High School; the fine line between intellectual freedom and censorship; the relationship between the First Amendment and parents that have final say in what minor children read; who can challenge and their top reasons; the top 10 books challenged in the past year; and the positive impact of reading banned books.

Other panel topics will include:

  • Does the Constitution protect expression that some consider offensive or obscene? (Brazelton)
  • Is explicit sexual expression a form of sex discrimination that exploits, degrades or subordinates women? (Groeneveld)
  • What should our teachers and schools do when a book in the curriculum is challenged? (Hinton-Johnson; Rush will address the same topic from the library's perspective.)

"With books like 'Harry Potter,' 'The Bluest Eye,' 'Slaughterhouse-Five' and 'Huckleberry Finn' still dominating the most challenged charts, we must consider the potential consequences of removing such texts from curriculum," Defonzo said. "When books are banned from public schools, and their libraries, we are withdrawing access to these materials, which in turn, compromises our children's' reading comprehension, retention and critical thinking skills as well as the social and cultural lessons these books teach them."

For more information about challenged books, visit the Banned Books Week website.

Site Navigation

Presidential Inauguration

ODU commemorated the inauguration of President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., during Homecoming Weekend 2022. Relive the historic weekend.

Fall Open House

It's time to fall in love with ODU! Join us for our last Open House event of the semester on Saturday, November 19.

Commencement 2022

Visit the Commencement Office for information on event times, caps & gowns, tickets and more!