'Satanic?' 'Smutfest?' Case Library Celebrates Banned Books

The library will host a banned book discussion (and Patch blog) Thursday night.


It's hard to miss: stand in the center of Case Memorial Library this week, and you're surrounded by books wrapped in brown paper. On their covers, you'll see some harsh words.

"Satanic," says one. "Smutfest," says another.

The books within are some of the greatest classics of all time. But for Banned Books week, the American Library Association event held nationally in the last week of September, librarian Rebecca Harlow decided to hide their identity -- to highlight how they've been labelled by censors in the past.

"I think it has a more profound impact on people," says Harlow. "They try to guess what the books are. And they're always surprised, because people don't think things like Catcher in the Rye or The Great Gatsby or Hansel and Gretel as something people would find distasteful. People are always shocked to see those are the books that are being banned, challenged or censored."

The library is also hosting a discussion Thursday night of one of the most controversial books in history: John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath.

"I think it's very relevant today, with the recession and what people are going through," says library director Meryl Farber, about Steinbeck's tale of poor Oklahoma farmers forced to make a cross-country trek to California looking for work. "It was kind of a socialistic take on idea that everybody was able to survive, even in a depression. A lot of these people were not able to do that -- they had to move cross-country looking for a better life, which didn't quite work out."

Longtime discussion moderator Toby Zabinski, formerly media specialist at Amity Middle School-Bethany, will lead the talk.

"She's a good facilitator," says Farber. "If we go off on a tangent, she'll be able to pull the group back in. She does the research very very well. Usually it lasts about an hour, hour and a half. We need to feel we've covered the book thoroughly."

If you're interested in keeping the discussion going -- or if you're not able to make the event (7:30 p.m. Thursday night) -- Case Memorial Library is teaming with Patch to talk about the controversial classic online. Join in immediately after the event on the library's Patch blog to follow the conversation!


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