Literary Festival takes on censorship
When M. Evelina Galang, assistant professor of English, first suggested the theme of banned books and censorship for this year's 19th Annual Literary Festival, she was greeted with mixed reactions. "While some were excited by the potential controversy, others were hesitant," said Galang, who has served as director of the festival for the last two years.
Some wondered if she could find enough contemporary writers who had been banned. But according to the "1996 Banned Books Resource Guide," 116 books were challenged or banned in United States school districts, public libraries, universities and college classrooms in the last year. Most recently, a study conducted by People for the American Way, in Washington. D.C., recorded 475 books challenged or banned during the last academic year.
"To be honest, gathering a body of writers whose works are dangerous, are banned or censored for their critical thought, for their explicit rendering of the world as they see it, for injustice as they have experienced it, was an easy task," said Galang. "Perhaps what was most difficult
was narrowing down the list."
This year's festival, billed as "Forbidden Passage," promises to be highly controversial and thought provoking. The program will run from Thursday, Oct. 10, through Sunday, Oct. 13.
Galang is hopeful that audiences will walk away from the program with a better understanding of what censorship is all about and what part it plays in a country where freedom of speech is considered a given.
"For writers like June Jordan, Anthony Vigil and Jessica Hagedom, the issues are about politics and the fight against racism," she said. "For others like Tony Kushner and Achy Obejas, the fear of AIDS and mainstream America's intolerance for the gay and lesbian community activate censorship's protest against their work."
Another participant in the festival, Brian Evensen, a fiction writer and professor of creative writing and literary theory, has been asked to stop writing fiction or risk excommunication from the Mormon church.
(See LITERARY FESTIVAL, Page 4)
Courier, October 4, 1996, page 4
Denise Duhamel, who wrote about the woman's body and the way society has objectified the body through the popular Barbie Doll, has been banned in both Canada and parts of America.
Poet Anthony Vigil, a Chicano, was "uninvited" to teach in the Denver Public Schools after he began teaching from a Chicano perspective, she said. Vigil and his performance poetry band, Los de Abajo, will perform at the festival.
Jessica Hagedorn, the Fiipina American author of "Dogeaters" and "The Gangster of Love," recently received rave reviews in Time magazine and The Village Voice.
This year's festival is larger than in years past, and reflects the support from across the university. The communication and theatre arts department will perform the Tony Award-winning show "Angels in America," a production written by one of the festival participants, Tony Kushner.
The Hampton Roads community, in general, is also playing a role in various aspects of the festival, Galang said.
Over the last month, several faculty members, including Galang, have been discussing the issue of censorship in their classes. "This is important because students have been engaged in these discussions and are already introduced to the writers before they come to the festival," she said.
Galang has added other new features to this year's festival. There will be after-reading receptions, hosted by several organizations, and on the final evening the art department will host a gala reception where Vigil and his band will perform.
There will also be an informal reading series, "After Words," at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday and Saturday evenings. Area writers and students in the M.F.A. program will read at the Taphouse Grill, a local pub on 21st Street in Ghent."This is a great place for writers and other festival participants to unwind and relax and it is also a great opportunity to hear works by writers not scheduled for
formal readings," said Galang.Another component of the festival is an exhibition at the University Gallery. Community, faculty and student artists have reviewed the visiting authors' works and responded to the work in the form of paintings, sculptures and other media. These works will be on display starting Oct. 10.
Schedule of Events
Thursday, Oct. 10
Friday, Oct. 11
Saturday, Oct. 12
* All but evening performances are free. Tickets for evening performances ($12 general public. $2 students) may be purchased at readings or in 220 BAL. FMI. 683-3991.
This page was digitized and formatted by Rob Shell, student in Pierce Tyler's Digital Literacy course (English 250), Fall 1999.