Warning! Banned books to make appearance in library

    Librarian Sima Thomas holds up the warnings that are placed in front of banned books in the library. Some banned books to consider are "The Great Gatsby" and "Madame Bovary," which were challenged in their time period. "I think we’re sometimes desensitized to why these books might have been banned," Thomas said.

    Librarian Sima Thomas holds up the warnings that are placed in front of banned books in the library. Some banned books to consider are “The Great Gatsby” and “Madame Bovary,” which were challenged in their time period. “I think we’re sometimes desensitized to why these books might have been banned,” Thomas said.

    “Harry Potter,” “Twilight” and “The Great Gatsby” — What do all of these books have in common? At one point, these popular books were challenged for being inappropriate during their time period. This week, the Palo Alto High School library is celebrating Banned Books Week by drawing students’ attention towards challenged books to generate discussion on the books’ subjects.

    According to librarian Sima Thomas, the library is placing warning signs in front of banned books that have been removed from their usual spot on the shelves, and instead placed around the library. Thomas hopes the warnings will draw students’ attention. She says that students who read the books will receive an award.

    “We think of Banned Books Week also as the Freedom to Read Week,” Thomas said. “What you’re doing when you’re reading a book of your choice, regardless of what people say, is that you’re asserting your freedom to read and to access info without any infringement by the government or other people, which is part of your First Amendment rights.”

    The library is also planning to generate discussion about books on social media, according to Thomas, who will personally be launching the Twitter campaign on the account @palylibrary by posting pictures pictures and facts of banned books.

    The purpose of Banned Books Week is to introduce high school students to a variety of topics, such as LGBTQ themes, which will help them expand their boundaries.

    “We want students to be exposed to all kinds of ideas and lifestyles and feelings,” Thomas said. “One of the really common veins for books to be challenged is books with LGBTQ themes and topics. We don’t have LGBTQ themes just for students who are themselves questioning if they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transexual. It’s for all students to read and have more empathy and understanding of what it could be like to be LGBTQ.”

    Thomas said that another common reason that books are often banned is racism.

    “Especially from the point of view of someone who’s a person of color and struggling with racism, these books can often be graphic and violent and challenging,” Thomas said. “They sometimes challenge mindsets that are held and that are common.”

    Paly Book Club President Claire Dennis also says that Banned Books Week is a great way to celebrate the freedom to read.

    “Students have the right to read a lot of diverse books, especially books that cover controversial topics,” Dennis said. “I think that it’s really important that students take this week to remember and appreciate the fact that we have so much freedom in choosing what we get to read.”