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December 9, 2022

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UWRF English department hosts banned book reading event

November 9, 2022

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls held its annual Banned Book Reading on Nov. 1; this year, volunteers read The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood out loud in 20-minute slots in the Art Gallery of UW-River Falls’ Kleinpell Fine Arts building. Readers were given a complimentary copy of the novel. 

“We had gone something like fifteen years without a banned book reading event,” said Mialisa Moline, the Chair for English, TESOL, and Modern Languages at UW-River Falls. “Last year we started it back up with Fahrenheit 451.

More students attended this year's event than last year’s, and a few more participated in reading the book. There was a little improvement on turnout over last year,” Moline said. The event was free, and open for community members to come and listen."

“I like building awareness about book banning,” said Moline. “It’s really important that people understand the dangers that are presented by censorship and college is a place for learning and expanding knowledge rather than limiting it.”

 The Handmaid’s Tale is set in the near future and takes place in the fictional Republic of Gilead, a regime that took over the United States government in response to a fertility crisis. The book has been accused of being anti-Christian and anti-Islamic, which is how it ended up being removed the public school systems of several U.S. states, as well as several countries. The book has also been widely criticized for its depictions of sex and violence.

“Just this spring, the author [Margaret Atwood] went into a joint project with Penguin Random House, and they produced and auctioned off an unburnable copy of the book,” Moline said. “[Atwood] said she wanted it to stand as a powerful symbol against censorship... It went for over $130,000.”

This year’s Banned Book Reading was sponsored by the English, TESOL, Modern Languages departments at UW-River Falls. Students can learn more about banned books at the banned book display on the second floor of Kleinpell Fine Arts.

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