By Elisabeth Strillacci
SALISBURY — They might be banned in some places, but on Saturday afternoon many books currently banned by schools were read again, this one aloud.
Alissa Redmond, owner of South Main Book Company since 2020, decided to host a reading of banned books to give the community a voice.
“I connect with a number of other bookstore owners on social media,” she said, “and in recent months this whole book ban issue has moved more and more to the first plan. So I tried to think about how I could help my own community, help people as concerned as I am. And I realized that I could give them a voice.
She sent out an invitation to the community to bring her favorite banned book to the bookstore and read a few pages. Over 20 people showed up, some to read, some to listen, all to lend their support.
“‘Banned’ is actually a misnomer,” Redmond said. “Perhaps a better word is ‘disputed.’ Currently in Virginia, a number of booksellers are uniting to oppose a request for a restraining order that would prevent private booksellers from selling the books” Gender Queer” and “A Court of Mist and Fury” to minors. The request is part of a larger lawsuit that would ban the sale of the books to minors without parental consent. A retired judge has already found “probable cause which both books call “lewd.” A retired judge had to rule on the case because all of the other Virginia Beach judges would have recused themselves, according to one of the attorneys handling the case.
Redmond said she hopes this area doesn’t follow.
Whitney Peckman decided she would read a selection of “The Catcher in the Rye” outside the store on the sidewalk, so anyone passing by could hear. She kept her voice subdued, not shouting, but noted that the people who entered were already people reading, and she hoped to reach others.
“People should understand that the drive to ban books from school libraries across the country comes from ultra-conservatives,” she said. “I have some things I’m conservative about, but reading isn’t one of them. Today’s event aims to alert people to this issue and encourage them to come to their school board meetings to hear what is being said and decided.
“I don’t know who we could trust more as a group than our teachers,” she added. “A well-educated person is well balanced. You can travel the world from your living room and discover other cultures, other countries, without having to move. And teachers know it.
Salisbury City Council member Anthony Smith read excerpts from James Baldwin’s ‘The Fire Next Time’, noting that Baldwin was once a controversial author. But he said the end of the book succinctly summed up how things seemed to him right now.
“God gave Noah the rainbow as a sign – more water. Fire next time,” he read.
People read books such as “Anti-Racist Baby”, “The Bluest Eye”, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”, “Hop on Pop” and “In the Dream House ,” all currently on the banned book list.
Tangela Morgan, a teacher and guidance counselor currently running for public office, chose to read “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“I identify so much with this book,” she said. “And growing up, I didn’t come from a wealthy family. The money my family earned was used to meet our basic needs. We didn’t go to museums or take vacations. But as long as I had books, I could travel and learn. I could do without having to go there. I hope the children still have books.
In addition to raising public awareness, Redmond held a small fundraiser for the Rowan County Literacy Council and, at the end of the event, donated $175 to the organization.