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Seattle Women's Chorus combats book bans with Little Free Library, book drive

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Photo courtesy of SWC
Photo courtesy of SWC

SEATTLE (January 20, 2024) — As books are being banned in the US 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, in front of the Seattle Men's Chorus and Seattle Women's Chorus office on First Hill (319 12th Ave.) beginning Jan. 27.

SWC members will place banned books in select Little Free Libraries on Saturday, Jan. 27 in Seattle. A few lucky readers will find a golden ticket in the 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 that will be performed in the concert. For a list of commonly banned books, visit https://pen.org/banned-book-list-2021-2022, 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% from the second half of the prior school year, the vast majority of which are written by or about LGBTQIA+ people 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 the Washington Center for the Book at the 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 in 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 on-site 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 https://www.seattlechoruses.org/seattle-womens-chorus-current-season

The internationally renowned Seattle Women's ChorusĀ (founded in 2002) and Seattle Men's Chorus (founded in 1979) together make one of the largest community choral organizations in North America, and stand out among the largest LGBTQ-identified choruses in the world. Both choruses perform in Seattle's most prestigious venues for an annual audience of more than 30,000 patrons across the Puget Sound region.