For the past two days, there has been a line wrapped around the Diag and up the steps of the Hatcher Graduate Library for the Banned Books Giveaway. The University of Michigan library received a grant from the LSA Arts Initiative to gift nearly 2,000 banned books to U-M students over the span of three days. The Banned Books Giveaway is a part of the University’s Arts & Resistance theme semester and coincides with the nationally recognized Banned Books Week.
Some of the titles being given away include “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” “Milk and Honey” and “The 1619 Project,” all of which have been banned in various libraries and schools around the country. As of 2022, Michigan is one of the top 10 states with the largest number of different books that have been challenged and banned.
Alan Piñon, director of communication and marketing for U-M libraries, said in an interview with The Michigan Daily that all of the titles that the library picked for the event have been banned in a school or library somewhere in Michigan. He said the library has been excited by the positive response to the giveaway from students, faculty and staff, as evidenced by the long line.
“The issue (of book banning) is everywhere,” Piñon said. “But this (event) is trying to pull the focus locally so that people understand how this is impacting us. (Book banning) is impacting students in schools and public libraries every day here in Michigan.”
LSA freshman Claire Young attended the event and said she noticed recurring themes of marginalized LGBTQ+, race, gender and religious identities contained in many of the banned books. She said the giveaway raises awareness of what books are being challenged, why they are coming under attack and how to prevent their banning.
“There’s lots of stories of queer people and minority groups, and it’s unfortunate that that’s what’s being banned,” Young said. “(The giveaway) can really help people be aware of what’s in the books and why they’re being banned and why they should not be banned.”
Business sophomore Vandhana Purushothaman also attended the giveaway and said she believes that everyone should be able to read works about diverse perspectives.
“A lot of my favorite books are banned in different places across the world,” Purushothaman said. “I think it’s cool that (the University) is promoting this. I think that regardless of how I may agree with the viewpoints of people, just because you silence their voices doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.”
Piñon said he believes all forms of literature are tied to resistance. He said reading gives insight into issues in the world and ways to find just solutions. According to Piñon, students can contribute to positive change in the world around them by seeking out diverse literature or sharing their own stories.
“Each one of these stories, poems and graphic novels all tell a story,” Piñon said. “Look to literature, read it, understand it and then go and find a way to tell your story because it does make an impact on people when they’re reading about things that they can identify with. It helps them be brave and go forward and do that for the next generation. Read and then go and write and tell your story.”
Daily Staff Reporter Maleny Crespo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.