This year, Banned Books Week matters more than ever

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STILL among the top-censored titles in the US.

Have you ever listened to KPFA's “Flashpoints”? A friend described it to me, as we listened to an episode featuring San Francisco's newest poet laureate – our first Latino laureate – Alejandro Murgía, as a “very pointed” radio show. The host, poet Dennis Bernstein, asked a very pointed question about Obama and Romney's reactions to the anti-Muslim video that's causing uproar in the Middle East. 

But Murgía changed the subject. What about the racism of the Tucson Unified School District, he asked? Why doesn't its removal of the Mexican American studies program, and with it books like The Tempest and Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and other books that “emphasize students’ ethnicity rather than their individuality” get talked about more? The more he talked, the more I became convinced that yes, this was a very big deal. 

Luckily, the country has an opportunity to talk about the issue of free speech repression via next week's 30th annual national celebration of Banned Books Week, Sun/30-Oct. 6.

Ethnic studies isn't the only literature with targets on its back. The national Banned Books Week site has a handy list of the top 10 titles banned in 2011. People get riled up about Hunger Games? Whoa, we're still incensed by To Kill A Mockingbird and Brave New World?

Free speech suppression is real! Here's where you can go to break the ban next week. You'll also want to keep your eyes on the City Lights blog, where you'll see talks by famous authors on their fave banned books – we're waiting eagerly for them to post the John Waters' reading of Lady Chatterly. On a national level, check the Banned Books Week website for information on joining the country-wide "virtual read-out" that the group is organizing.

“Cracking the News with Project Censored”

Every year, the Guardian publishes Project Censored's list of the top most suppressed stories in the news. (Because sometimes banning starts before publishing does.) On Monday, get a sneak peek with Mickey Huff from PC, who will break down the big events of the year that you didn't get to hear about. 

Mon/1, 7:30pm, free

The Booksmith

1644 Haight, SF

www.booksmith.com

“Let's Talk 50 Shades of Grey”

Perhaps, given the issues we've already discussed, the fact that the soccer mom version of a BDSM novel getting restricted in libraries across the country doesn't seem quite so dire. But sexuality, of course, is still very much a part of us. The library's conscripted Emily Morse, star of Bravo's Miss Advised reality show and local self-styled sexpert, to lead a discussion of this bestselling, racy tale of a CEO and his virginal submissive. 

Tue/2, 6pm, free

San Francisco Main Library

100 Larkin, SF

www.sfpl.org

“Out of Print” art reception

The students at City College respond to free speech issues with their art at this Banned Books Week group show.

Tue/2-Wed/5, opening reception Tue/2, 5-8pm, free

Cesar Chavez Student Center gallery, City College of San Francisco 

1650 Holloway, SF

www.ccsf.edu

“Read Banned Books Naked”: Naked Girls Reading 

Ophelia Coeur de Noir, Carol Queen, and members of the Twilight Vixen Revue strip down and start turning pages for you from their favorite piece of restricted literature at the SF edition of this national network of nudie-bookworm readings. 

Tue/2, 8pm, $20-25/$35 for two

Stagewerx Theater

446 Valencia, SF

www.nakedgirlsreading.com

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