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Author Sara Paretsky discusses attacks on writers at libraries, among other topics, at an event hosted by Friends of the UD Library.
Author Sara Paretsky discusses attacks on writers and libraries, among other topics, at an event hosted by Friends of the UD Library.

Discussing book bans

Photo by Evan Krape

Author Sara Paretsky speaks at Friends of the UD Library event

Books and libraries are under serious assault in the United States, author Sara Paretsky told University of Delaware students, faculty, staff and community members at the Friends of the UD Library annual dinner on April 26 at the Delaware Art Museum in Wilmington.

“This is frankly a terrifying time in our country for readers, writers, booksellers and, above all, librarians,” Paretsky said. “A number of towns and counties are closing their libraries, not for budget reasons, but for carrying books that offend some residents.” 

At the event, Paretsky discussed attacks on writers, librarians and libraries. She also spoke about the books that shaped her, what prompts her to write what she does, and the importance of a writer’s voice and how she developed her own.

The event was hosted by the Friends of the UD Library, a group that supports the UD Library, Museums and Press with various contests, programming and monetary gifts.

The Friends of the University of Delaware Library recently made a $277,000 commitment over the next five years to the UD Library, Museums and Press. The donation will support the digitization of a wide variety of archival collections that are currently held in Special Collections and focus on Delaware history and culture. The items that will be digitized are unique to the UD Library, Museums and Press and have never been made available online.

Paretsky is best known for a series of 20 mystery novels featuring female detective V.I. Warshawski. The series revolutionized the crime genre, which for decades had been dominated by male characters. 

“My initial courage to create my own detective came out of the desire to change the narrative about women in crime fiction,” Paretsky said. “From about the age of 13 on, I read crime novels in preference to almost any other kind of book.”

In addition to the 20 Warshawski novels, Paretsky has also written two stand-alone novels, several short story collections and a memoir, Writing in an Age of Silence. Paretsky is the founder of Sisters in Crime, a worldwide organization to advocate for women crime writers, and she founded the Sara and Two C-Dogs foundation, which helps build STEM and art programs for young people. She is passionate about social justice and volunteers in support of healthcare for the mentally ill and homeless, reproductive rights and teens in Chicago’s most troubled schools.

Several of Paretsky’s novels have touched on issues around social justice issues. In response to those books, Paretsky said she’s received several letters in protest, which have become more inflamed recently.

In the past year, school libraries around the country have been forced to remove more than 2,000 titles from their shelves, Paretsky said, emphasizing that those are just the titles and that thousands of copies of those books have been banned.

“Among the troubling aspects of these bans is that many states, including Florida, have banned a book from a school if one parent objects,” she said. “One parent. No hearing, no response from parents who want that book in their child's hands. This is minority tyranny with vengeance.”

While those numbers are for school libraries, the picture for public libraries themselves is just as grim.

“In Iran, books are banned for their blasphemous content; in Russia, for their opposition to the state,” Paretsky said. “In America, we call books pornographic or pushing a political agenda. But in all three countries, the same or similar titles are banned, especially those books depicting LGBTQ characters in a sympathetic way. In all three countries, the government is choosing what we and our children can or cannot read.”

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