Thursday, September 19, 2013

What does the reading public lose when a book is removed from the shelves? Writers from Burma/Myanmar, Pakistan, Panama, and Portugal—in Iowa City for the International Writing Program (IWP) fall residency—will team up with Iowa City librarians for a public discussion on censorship from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, in Meeting Room A of the Iowa City Public Library (ICPL).

The free event is part of the 2013 Intellectual Freedom Festival.

Burmese poet Zeyar Lynn, Pakistani novelist Shandana Minhas, Panamanian performance poet Lili Mendoza, and Portuguese playwright and multimedia artist Patrícia Portela will offer diverse international perspectives on censorship.

The IWP writers will engage with the public during a question-and-answer session and offer their unique perspectives on what censorship is and what impact it has on society. Burma ranks among the 10 most censored countries in the world, while Portugal offers more press freedom than the United States.

As part of Banned Books Week, the public will be invited to place labels on library materials indiscriminately, before joining the international writers and ICPL librarians for the discussion.

In the United States alone, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom recorded 5,099 challenges to books for reasons such as “sexually explicit” material, “offensive language,” and “homosexuality” between 2000 and 2009. (More than 1,200 challenges targeted public libraries.) In 2012, the top 10 most challenged books in the U.S. included Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner, and E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey.

The IWP is a unique conduit for the world’s literatures, connecting well-established writers from around the globe, bringing international literature into classrooms, introducing American writers to other cultures through reading tours, and serving as a clearinghouse for literary news and a wealth of archival and pedagogical materials. Since 1967, more than 1,400 writers from more than 140 countries have been in residence at the UI.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all UI-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to attend this reading, contact Ashley Davidson with the IWP in advance at 319-335-2817 or