As books are being banned in the U.S. at an unprecedented rate, Seattle Women’s Chorus is putting a spotlight on the issue by holding a banned books book drive with Third Place Books and creating its very own Little Free Library.
Through Feb. 3, new and used banned books will be collected at any Third Place Books location to be distributed among Seattle-area Little Free Libraries—including Seattle’s newest Little Free Library in front of the Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus office on First Hill (319 12th Avenue) beginning Jan. 27.
Members of the Seattle Women’s Chorus will be placing banned books in select Little Free Libraries on Saturday, Jan. 27 in Seattle. A few lucky readers will find a golden ticket in the Little Free Library books, redeemable for free tickets to the upcoming Seattle Women’s Chorus Banned & Beloved concert.
Banned titles include This Book is Gay, Alice in Wonderland, Beloved, Heather Has Two Mommies and Melissa—all of which inspired original songs to be performed in the Banned & Beloved concert. For a list of commonly banned books, visit this list compiled by PEN America.
Banning books is a nationwide issue. In just the first half of the 2022-23 school year, there were 1,477 instances of individual books banned, an increase of 28 percent from the second half of the prior school year, the vast majority of which are written by or about LGBTQIA+ individuals and people of color and centered on race, sexual orientation and gender, according to PEN America.
While Washington state is often praised as a progressive safe haven for diverse voices and inclusion, books continue to be challenged – most notably over the past few years in the Kent, Mukilteo and Walla Walla school districts. Overall, books challenged in Washington jumped from 10 to 42 between 2017 and 2021, according to the American Library Association.
“The primary role of reading is joy from encountering other worlds that are not your own,” said Nancy Pearl, beloved local librarian, author and former executive director of Washington Center for the Book at Seattle Public Library. “It’s also important that kids and adults recognize and find themselves in the pages of the book. For kids especially, it’s important to see that they’re not alone, whatever their situation is.”
The book drive and Little Free Library installation were born out of the Seattle Women’s Chorus singing music that makes a difference with Banned & Beloved. This new concert features custom-composed songs based on banned books, with performances at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 3 at Town Hall Seattle. Donations of banned books will also be accepted at each concert, with Third Place Books onsite selling copies of banned books.
Tickets for the Banned & Beloved concert – as well as livestream and on-demand tickets – are available for purchase ($29-$59) at SeattleWomensChorus.org.