The brief in The Missourian caught my eye — a new book club was starting at Scenic Regional Library. I attended last week and am pumped for the next meeting.
In the B.A.CH. (Banned And Challenged) Books Club, members read books that have been banned and/or challenged by individuals, schools and/or libraries — “not by the government,” Diane Disbro said. She’s the branch manager at Union, and the group’s coordinator. It was Diane’s idea to form the group after the new library director, Steve Campbell, told his staff he’d like to see more book clubs at Scenic.
Diane admits to a “sensitivity about being told what you should and shouldn’t read,” so a book club featuring banned books piqued her interest. She wondered, “Who are the people banning the books? Why are they making these decisions, and what are they objecting to?”
“These people” have created quite a long list of banned and challenged books, a list that can be accessed through the American Library Association’s website. The ALA heartily supports people’s freedom to read what they wish and is a sponsor of Banned Book Week, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2012.
The B.A.CH. Book Club’s first selection was “Fahrenheit 451,” by Raymond Bradbury. It’s a book that Diane always wanted to read, or in this case reread. To kick off the book club she chose that title along with four others. After that, the members will decide what banned book they’d like to read.
Last Thursday evening, it wasn’t that chilly when I drove over to Scenic, but when I arrived I was left out in the cold. I hadn’t completely read the newspaper article with all the book club details. I thought “Fahrenheit” would be assigned at the first meeting, but in actuality we were supposed to have finished the book and come ready to discuss it. I was sorry I couldn’t participate in the lively talk on a book with staying power first published in 1953.
Because I missed the assignment the first week, I can’t write about a lot of what was discussed, but just wait until next month. I’ll know the characters and plot, and be able to spout a blue streak about “The Chocolate War,” a Young Adult novel by Robert Cormier. The book is about a boy who refuses to sell chocolates during his school’s fund-raiser; this creates quite a stir—“it’s as if the whole school comes apart at the seams,” states a synopsis Diane handed out.
The first book club meeting was stimulating. Even though the group was small, it’s energizing to be with other book lovers—folks who enthusiastically pass along their passion for books, a passion that oozes out of their pores, all barriers and shyness evaporating as favorite titles are shared. There was plenty of that, as well as input on the negative aspects of banning a book. It seems we’re all learning together and Diane was a welcoming and warm facilitator, encouraging members to engage in discussion. She, in turn, was pleased with the outcome of the book club’s debut, and was grateful for the “open and thoughtful” conversation.
As a group we agreed that we sometimes “ban,” or perhaps selectively choose, the books we, or our children, read. We called to mind our parents, and their hesitation in allowing us to read “Peyton Place” for example — or “Valley of the Dolls,” which is “Dick and Jane tame” when compared to “Fifty Shades of Gray.”
The list of banned and challenged books that Diane handed out is shocking — what would Mark Twain think about “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” being on that list? And how about Barbara Park, the author of the “Junie B. Jones” series of chapter books? Or Khaled Hosseini — who wrote one of my favorite books of all time, “The Kite Runner.”
More will be revealed as they say. After “The Chocolate War,” we’ll tackle one of the following: “Black Like Me,” by John Griffin, “The Ugly American,” by William J. Lederer and “A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle.
Join us if you can — but stand warned — do your assigned reading. It’s no fun to stand at the board with your nose in a chalk ring.
The B.A.CH. Books Club meets the third Thurs. of each month at 7 p.m. at Scenic’s Union branch. If you’re unable to attend one month come the next. You also can offer input on the book club’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/scenicregional.