Event brings light to banned books

In celebration of Banned Books Week, Kingfisher Bookstore in Coupeville is hosting a trivia night.

In celebration of Banned Books Week, Kingfisher Bookstore in Coupeville is hosting a trivia night designed to raise awareness of free speech and information access issues in the U.S.

Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of freedom to read sponsored by the American Library Association and other organizations, takes place this year from Sept. 18-24. Kingfisher’s trivia event, catered by Front Street Grill, will take place at 6 p.m. on Sept. 24.

Felix Hall, who works at Kingfisher, will co-host the trivia night with store owner Meg Olson. Trivia questions will focus on both the history of efforts to reduce access to written materials in America and topics addressed in classic and contemporary books that have faced challenges.

The event is less about competing to answer questions and more about education on an important issue, Hall said.

“It’s a way for us as a bookstore to promote free speech and to promote open access to written materials, which is what we’re all about,” Olson said.

While attempts to ban books can be found throughout U.S. and world history, the American Library Association reported that such attempts have surged over the last year, according to The New York Times. Contemporary books that have faced challenges in school boards and libraries across the country tend to center on race and gender issues.

“If you look at the books that have been the most challenged in the past years, going from racial issues to gender issues, you can track what’s been happening contemporarily,” Hall said. “I think that that makes it more important to read those books if someone is scared of you reading them.”

Whidbey Island schools have not yet been swept up in the growing surge of book challenges; representatives from Coupeville and South Whidbey school districts said they have not received requests from any parents or community members to remove any texts from the schools, nor have they taken any books off the shelves or out of the curriculum themselves.

Olson and Hall said they are not aware of any official challenges made against books at any Whidbey establishments but said dialogue around controversial issues can still cause trepidation among librarians or administrators as they decide whether to stock or promote contested titles. For this reason, education about free speech and information access remains imperative.

“Restricting access to the conversation has been used to marginalize people who aren’t quite in the mainstream for generations,” Olson said. “You can’t honor diversity if you don’t honor access to diverse writing.”

Attendance at the trivia night will be capped at 15 participants. Attendees must purchase tickets in advance at the bookstore or online at kingfisherbookstore.com. Hall said participants should expect to learn a lot while celebrating some excellent texts.

“It’s a serious topic, but we’re going to have fun,” Hall said.

Tickets are $18 and can be purchased in-store or online at https://kingfisherbookstore.com/?q=h.calevent&eid=20025. People can also reserve tickets over the phone at 360-678-8463 or be email at hello@kingfisherbookstore.com.