Banned Books, Free Speech and Common Decency at the Kurt Vonnegut Library In Indianapolis

The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial LibraryThe exterior of the Kurt Vonnegut Library in the Cultural Arts District of Indianapolis in Indianapolis is ground zero for the annual Banned Books Week in September. This is a series of events organized by the American Library Association and endorsed by the National Council of Teachers of English, among others, to celebrate literary freedom.

In case you’re uncertain, these groups oppose banning literature and information of any kind. As do I.

Indianapolis is where Kurt Vonnegut was born and raised. One of his most famous works, Slaughterhouse Five, recounts Vonnegut’s personal experience as a POW in Dresden when Americans firebombed the city in the last weeks of World War II. This book continues to be banned in otherwise literary enclaves across this country.

Kurt Vonnegut's writing desk and typewriter on display at the Vonnegut Library in Indianapolis.

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Kurt Vonnegut and Banned Books in the U.S.

Exhibits at the Vonnegut Library in IndianapolisKurt Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse Five are in amazing company. Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath. They all make the list of banned and burned books in the United States.

Throw in J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series, and you’ve got a real weenie-roast in the making. Seriously. Harry Potter.

So, I apologize just ever so slightly for a post that touches on controversial and inflammatory issues, something I don’t like to do in this setting.

Visiting the Vonnegut Library in Indianapolis

Dresden Germany is where Kurt Vonnegut was imprisoned during the war.Bruce and I have visited the Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis. We saw his Purple Heart from WWII. We were reminded that he was captured during the Battle of the Bulge. He survived unthinkable conditions in captivity. He helped bury the dead after the controversial firebombing of Dresden.

We’ve also visited Dresden, Germany and seen the reconstruction of this beautiful city. More than 70 years after those dreadful nights in February 1945 when an estimated 135,000 civilians burned alive, the devastation is still visible.

The firebombing of Dresden recounted at the Kurt Vonnegut Museum in Indianapolis.The Kurt Vonnegut Library in Indianapolis has an exhibit on the firebombing of Dresden, as recounted by the author who experienced it.

The library hosts events throughout the year that examine controversial books and topics. Other programs focus on civility, a topic of great importance to Vonnegut.

Kurt Vonnegut fought for freedom and paid a heavy price for it, in more ways than one. The least I can do is offer a few words to carry on that fight for freedom.

“So it goes.”

So it goes is a popular line from Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five.

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