In “Fahrenheit 451”, Ray Bradbury wrote “a book is a loaded gun”. In other words, words are powerful. But that doesn’t mean certain books should be made unavailable to the public by agenda-driven censors who deem the works as inappropriate reading material.

Like Bradbury’s novel, profound and/or popular titles that have been banned range from Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” to J.K. Rowling’s  “Harry Potter” series. In fact, Anne Frank’s “The Diary of a Young Girl”, Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird”, Stephen King’s “The Shining”, Alice Walker’s “A Color Purple”, and Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” were all off limits at one point in parts of the country. 

And every year a new batch of books are at risk.

That’s why the last week of September is Banned Books Week. Promoted by the American Library Association (ALA) and Amnesty International, the annual awareness campaign supports the freedom of reading and the First Amendment. It draws attention to the dangers of censorship by spotlighting restriction of access to books across the United States.

As such, City Lit Theater Company and the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom present “Books on the Chopping Block” (Sep. 22 – Oct. 1) at various locations in and around Chicago. “Our focus is literate theater, so we are naturally concerned by attempts to keep books away from people,” says City Lit Artistic Director Terry McCabe. “We are privileged to continue our alliance with the ALA in this important work.”

The 60-minute program features five-minute readings of excerpts from the most recent books at risk. Each segment is introduced with a background on the book, including the reason why it was challenged. The readings are followed by an audience discussion.

Participating readers include Katy Nielsen (pictured), Gordy Andina, Dan Jackson, Brian Pastor, Peter Leondedis, Whitney Dottery, Jeff Broitman, Evin McQuistion, and Amanda Hays.

This year, the “Books on the Chopping Block” are: “A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss with illustrations by E.G. Keller; “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie; “Captain Underpants” written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey; “Drama” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier; “George” by Alex Gino; “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas; the “Skippy Jon Jones” series written and illustrated by Judy Schachner; “Thirteen Reasons Why” by Jay Asher; “This Day in June” by Gayle E. Pitman illustrations by Kristyna Litten; “This One Summer” by Mariko Tamaki with illustrations by Jillian Tamaki; and “Two Boys Kissing” by David Levithan.

Chicago readings will take place at Sulzer Library (Sep. 22); American Library Association Headquarters and Bridgeport Branch (Sep. 23); Back of the Yards Branch (Sep. 24); Hall Branch and Budlong Woods Branch (Sep. 25); Edgewater Branch (Sep. 26); DePaul University Library and Lawyers for the Creative Arts (Sep. 27); Bezazian Branch (Sep. 28); Lincoln Belmont Branch (Oct. 1). Suburban locations include Frankfort Public Library (Sep. 23) and Mt. Prospect Library (Sep. 24).

Funding for the program is provided by the Seabury Foundation and the Freedom to Read Foundation.

Images courtesy of “Books on the Chopping Block”

Ms. Arvia is a Rebellious columnist and movie critic; entertainment ghostwriter; award-winning artist; and grant-winning filmmaker.