D.C. readers are being encouraged to search the city for six books that have been pulled from the shelves of schools and libraries in states like Texas and Florida. The scavenger hunt is one way the D.C. Public Library System is celebrating national Banned Books Week.
“Libraries, as the great protectors of the First Amendment, want to raise awareness that book challenges are bad, book banning is bad,” said Richard Reyes-Gavilan, executive director of D.C. Public Library.
Reyes-Gavilan said the D.C. Public Library Foundation has purchased hundreds of copies of six books which have been banned in other states. They’re being hidden in places around the city, from bookstores to coffee shops to bars and, of course, libraries.
He said the District has a unique platform when it comes to speaking out against censorship of books because many of the city’s visitors might come from states where titles are being removed from shelves.
“I’m sort of more interested in the people who are maybe passing by, and who are here for a short period of time and might find a book in the scavenger hunt, or might see a message of inclusivity and freedom of speech, that might resonate with them as they get on a plane and fly back to wherever they live,” Reyes-Gavilan said.
D.C. libraries are providing clues to help participants find the books. When you find one, you’ll know, because all the hidden books feature a cover designed by local graphic artist Dian Hilton. It features the image of snakes in the grass, Reyes-Gavilan said.
“The motif of the snake in the tall grass is really sort of the metaphor for censorship,” according to Reyes-Gavilan.
The hidden books include “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson, “How the Word is Passed” by Clint Smith, “With The Fire on High” by Elizabeth Acevedo, “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein, “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker and “A Snake Falls to Earth” by Darcie Little Badger.
Tamara Collington, the programs coordinator for Busboys and Poets, said all the restaurant’s locations are honored to be hiding spots for some of the books.
“All of the titles chosen this year for this initiative, we have had or currently have in store,” Collington said.
The chain’s 14 Street NW location has at least two books hidden, and Collington provided a tip for searchers: “If they look toward mystery and all things Halloween, they’ll be pretty warm.”
While it is called Banned Books Week, the D.C. library system is running its own version called #UncensoredDC through the entire month of October. It also includes other events, such as talks with authors.
“We encourage people to become engaged in this ongoing threat to our democracy, which is challenged and banned books,” Reyes-Gavilan said.