By Perry Stein
If you enter just the right business or library this month, you may stumble upon a hidden book that was censored or challenged at one point. And if you find it, it’s yours for the keeping.
The D.C. public library system is hiding several hundred copies of books — which were once banned or challenged — in private businesses throughout all eight wards to celebrate Banned Books Week. The “UNCENSORED banned books” scavenger hunt kicked off Sept. 6 and will run through the month.
Each book is wrapped in a cover that explains why that book was banned or challenged. For example, J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye” will say “Anti-White” because in 1963, parents of high school students in Columbus, Ohio, asked the school board to ban the novel for being “anti-white.”
Other challenged or banned books included in the scavenger hunt: “The Color Purple,” “Slaughterhouse Five,” “A Separate Peace,” “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Native Son.”
D.C. public libraries will dole out clues about the books’ whereabouts on its social media accounts throughout the month with the hashtag #UncensoredDC. People who find a book are encouraged to post a picture of it on social media with that hashtag.
Winners at least 21 years old have a chance to win free tickets to “UNCENSORED: The Cocktail Party” as part of a fundraiser for the D.C. Public Library Foundation.
The city’s library system will host banned-book-related events at 25 neighborhood libraries throughout the month.
“This year’s theme is ‘Diversity,’ which will celebrate literature written by diverse writers that has been banned or challenged, as well as explore why diverse books are being disproportionately singled out,” the library system wrote in a release explaining the festivities. “It’s estimated that more than half of all banned books are by authors of color, or contain events and issues concerning diverse communities, according to the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.”