This week is Banned Books Week, and the University of Akron has featured books that at one point, were banned, and still are banned in areas, as well as held discussions about banning books and how to teach literature in relation to these books.
In the city and in the general area of Northeast Ohio, we haven't had much worry in that department, but book banning is still practiced. Some parts of the country have banned the Harry Potter series, claiming that it "encourages witchcraft." Recently, in Alabama, a group of parents wanted to ban Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye from its shelves and its curriculum. In North Carolina, public schools had to take Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man off of its shelves and out of the curriculum, until recently, when the book was restored. Beate Girsh, a librarian at the university, states that "racial themes" are one of the reasons why people would want to ban books, next to books that depict violence, sexual content, and obscenities. These great novels are teaching opportunities of themselves for people who read them, but as books are free speech of themselves, what can be said of those who find value in a diverse selection of literature? The 1956 film, Storm Center, starring Bette Davis, Brian Keith, and Kim Hunter addresses the matter.
The film is about Alicia Hull (Davis), who is widowed, and is the city's librarian. She likes to encourage children to read, as she encourages Freddie Slater (Kevin Coughlin). She also wants to expand the library for a children's wing so she can continue teaching with better resources. Her assistant, Martha Lockeridge (Hunter), supports her ambition. However,Judge Roger Ellerbe( Paul Kelly), who will do so long as she gets rid of the book The Communist Dream off of her shelves. She refuses, as she values the diversity of opinion expressed in literature and feels that it would be bad for the community to be without this different perspective. Immediately, she is fired and labeled as a subversive. Judge Ellerbe feels like she has been treated unfairly in this case, and calls a town meeting. Martha's boyfriend, Paul Duncan (Keith), who is an ambitious lawyer and aspiring politician, uses the meeting to denounce Alicia as a Communist. The whole town turns against her, but Alicia stands firm. What will happen? See the movie.
Though this film is dated fifty-eight years, the message still rings true today as it is still an issue. Books, as the libraries who hold them, deserve to be read and represent the most American of ideals- free speech. Everyone has a story to tell, and every library deserves community support. It is a shame that people don't think that people should be allowed to read this book or that book based on the author and the subject- because what they miss out is an education.