What Maya Angelou, JD Salinger, and the Apostles have in common

Aug 8, 2013

Bozeman artist George Cole is one of three involved in the creation of the "Banned, Challenged, Censored" sculpture traveling to Montana libraries this year.
Credit Katrin Frye

Maya Angelou, JD Salinger, and the Apostles all have something in common. The writers of “I Know why the Caged Bird Sings,” “The Catcher in the Rye,” and the Holy Bible have all had their books challenged or banned. Bozeman artists George Cole, Sara Williams and Collin Letts collaborated on the sculpture called “Banned, Challenged, Censored,” the piece features numerous books displayed on individual shelves against a backdrop of pages from other banned books and magazines. There are current books and old classics. Cole said one of the messages of the piece is that this is an ongoing issue

“My dad actually used to tell me that freedom was never easy, and sometimes freedom of expression can be an ugly experience too; it’s not always poetry and smooth reading, and so all of us kind of have to evaluate and realize the importance of freedom of expression, but at the same time, know that sometimes, we’re going to disagree with the content of that book or that movie,” Cole said.

The piece has been traveling to different libraries across the state and recently came to Kalispell.

Flathead County Library Director Kim Crowley said they’ve set up a display of books to check out that have been banned or challenged. The display includes children’s material like “A Light in the Attic,” by Shel Silverstein, and Joseph Heller’s “Catch – 22”, as well as other titles like “50 Shades of Gray” that Crowley said has been popular, may not have the highest literary value, but has been challenged in some places for its sexual content.

“Many people say that any library worth their salt has something to offend everyone. So, you and I might not have the same reading tastes, but you can find what you want to read, and I can find what I want to read,” Crowley said libraries strive to have a broad, diverse offering to satisfy the reading taste of their communities, and maybe even challenge some people’s ideas.

The Banned Books sculpture will stay at the Kalispell Library until mid-September, It’s already traveled to Bozeman, Butte, Billings, Missoula, and Helena with Great Falls Public Library next on the tour.