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Students flip the script in banned book debate

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Kevin Brost | Arizona Daily Wildcat

Kevin Brost / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Students perform skits as part of a Banned Books LGBTQ Children’s Book Theatre at the stage on the University of Arizona mall on September 27, 2011.

Yesterday’s “ReadOUT, ACTout” theatrical performance on the UA Mall caught the attention of students rushing by and drew in spontaneous listeners.

The performance included the reading of four banned children’s books, including “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson, which was read in both English and Spanish. The book, which tells the true story of a same-sex penguin couple raising an egg, has been placed on the American Library Association’s top 10 challenged books list every year since 2006.

Zachary Karon, musical theater major and director of “ReadOUT, ACTout”, said that once a book is banned it can’t be found in public libraries, schools or mainstream bookstores.

“Growing up gay, it would’ve been nice if I had children’s stories that I could’ve read with my parents, or even if I could’ve given those children’s books that were banned to all the kids that ever bullied me before,” Karon said. He added that the benefit of performing the readings in a public space was that it made them available to anyone passing by, and that his hope was to inform people who may be against queer literature, homophobic or anti-gay.

Krystle Rowe, an animal sciences junior who was drawn in by the performance while walking on the Mall, said the theatrical performance was an effective way of getting the attention of people who weren’t aware of the issue.

“If I had to pick one goal it would be to attract people to the issue who wouldn’t normally take interest, to draw in those who haven’t really considered banned books or queer literature or how important and significant it is, and for them to look at it and see that it’s just a children’s story and the fact that this is challenged or banned is ridiculous,” Karon said.

Danielle Carlos, a sophomore studying English, said she’s passionate about reading and views it as freedom of speech and expression.

“I think it’s really good to bring attention to the fact that these books are being challenged, and this is really cool that they’re doing in English and Spanish,” Carlos said.

Natasha Ruwani De Soysa, an actor in “ReadOUT, ACTout” and a psychology sophomore, said she participated in the program to make herself more aware, and that she had no idea there were children’s books written with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people in mind.

“I think it’s important because a lot of people grow up and don’t even realize that they’re kind of being forced into looking at certain ideas,” De Soysa said. “In a lot of children’s books you see two parents that are of the opposite sex, and you only see children behaving in certain ways, which kind of puts people into boxes and makes them think that there can only be one way to do things.”

Laura Neff, an environmental sciences junior, said she doesn’t agree with censorship.

“I think (“ReadOUT, ACTout”) is really awesome because you don’t see these kinds of books around in libraries,” Neff said, “so I think it’s really awesome to show other points of view and other types of families.”


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