Taking a stand against reader censorship, several Tri-Valley bookstores are focusing on books that have been challenged by authoritative agencies over the years.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, a nationwide celebration of the freedom to read from Sept. 30 to Oct. 6. According to the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, 10,000 challenges to books in schools and libraries in the United States have been made since 1982 — an average of about 500 books a year.
Booksellers, librarians, publishers and authors joined forced in creating Banned Books Week to draw attention to the problem of censorship.
In the Tri-Valley, independent bookstores are showing their support through displays of these challenged books — some marked with caution tape, others noting when and why each book was banned.
Pleasanton's Towne Center Books' display sits proudly in their front window at 555 Main St. to have people "start a conversation" according to bookseller Joe Battaglia.
He said they will continue to advocate against banned books until it is no longer an issue.
"It's amazing how many people think of books being banned as not an active thing," he said. "We're highlighting that this goes on and it should stop."
Read Booksellers in Danville have about 50 books on their display, many of which list American classics like "Of Mice and Men" and "The Grapes of Wrath."
"[John] Steinbeck sells well," said said the store's book buyer Erin Dixon.
The store, located at 3630 Blackhawk Plaza Circle, has been participating in Banned Books Week every year since opening in 2009.
"We believe all literature should be available to the public," Dixon said. "We believe in freedom of information and we represent all genres of thought."
Also in Danville, Rakestraw Books is promoting a campaign comprised of two components: posters and a series of videos. The posters, entitled "FREADOM: Celebrate the Right to Read," feature locals reading their favorite banned books. Similarly, the short videos will highlight locals reading passages from these banned books.
At Bay Books in San Ramon, book club coordinator Linda Walonen said most of the books on their display are children's books.
The Harry Potter series is one of the most popular book series they feature. It was banned because "there are people who feel it encourages magic and witchcraft," Walonen said.
However, among one of the most popular books being bought is
"Bless Me, Ultima" by Rudolfo Anaya. Walonen says many teachers have assigned it to their students to read and have jumped on the "banned books bandwagon."
Though it may not be such a big surprise that some books are banned for their involvement of sex and profanity, others are a bit difficult to understand.
"Black Beauty" by Anna Sewell was banned in South Africa because it included the word "black," according to Walonen. She added that in China, "Alice in Wonderland" was banned because "talking animals are considered blasphemous in Chinese culture."
From school PTAs to police and govenments, numerous authoritative agencies have placed bans on thousands of books over the years. These local book stores are promoting that these pieces of literature should not be taken away and are bringing awareness to readers everywhere.
"People can lose their rights and privilages without realizing it," Walonen said. "People just need to be aware and stop things liek this from happening."
For more information on Banned Book Week, visit www.bannedbooksweek.org.