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Let Freedom Read: A Banned Books Week Panel Discussion

October 5, 2023 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm PDT


Flintridge Bookstore hosts LET FREEDOM READ: A Banned Books Week Panel, led by moderator and writer/educator Benin Lemus. She is joined by Flintridge Bookstore manager/book buyer Robert Gibbs, children’s book author Andrea Loney, and La Cañada Flintridge Public Library manager Mark Totten. From their unique perspectives, panelists will explore this polarizing issue and discuss, among other topics, why books continue to be banned, the harm censorship causes, and their own personal or professional experiences regarding banned or challenged titles.

Panel moderator Benin Lemus says: “Book banning isn’t just about taking books off shelves; it’s about severing our connection to our fellow citizens – the ones we know and the people we will never meet. One of the most powerful outcomes of reading is that it creates a sense of unity that has the capacity to change us for the better. When we read, we become more fully realized people. We must guard that right at all costs.”

Benin Lemus was born in California and raised in Portland, Oregon. She earned her B.A. in English from Bennett College in North Carolina, an MFA in Film and Television Production from the University of Southern California, and a teaching credential in Secondary Education from Mount Saint Mary’s University. She is a 2022 Inaugural Workshop Fellow with Obsidian Magazine’s O|Sessions: Black Listening–A Performance Master Class. Her work was published most recently in Márọkọ́: Journal of African Poetry and TORCH Literary Arts, for which her submission was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Benin’s work as a poet intersects with her vocation as a public school teacher and librarian. In today’s polarized political and social landscape, she believes people need to read more books and push back against the erasure of this country’s fractured past and promising future.

Robert Gibbs has been a manager at Flintridge Bookstore for more than a decade, where he is also a book buyer. Gibbs is a screenwriter and a creator and host of The Junto Presents, a speculative fiction audio drama podcast. He has a Master of Letters and an MFA in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature in Performance from Mary Baldwin College in association with the American Shakespeare Center.

Andrea Loney’s children’s books include the Caldecott Honor winning DOUBLE BASS BLUES; the NAACP Award nominated biography TAKE A PICTURE OF ME: JAMES VANDERZEE!; BUNNYBEAR, an ALA Rainbow List title; the biographies VIP STACEY ABRAMS: VOTING VISIONARY and CURVE AND FLOW: THE ELEGANT VISION OF LA ARCHITECT PAUL R. WILLIAMS; and most recently, the futuristic book series ABBY IN ORBIT. She received her MFA in Dramatic Writing at New York University, and then ran away with The Big Apple Circus for a year before coming to CA. She has worked for the film, television, and gaming industries, mostly at The Walt Disney Company. Now, she teaches computer and writing classes and travels across the country for speaking engagements.

Mark Totten has been the County of Los Angeles Community Manager of the La Canada Flintridge Public Library since 2010. In this capacity, he directs all of the Library’s activities, including reference, circulation, collection development, cataloguing and community programs. He oversees and approves special events, adult programs and children’s activities.  He grew up in New York and moved to California to work as a prop maker in entertainment. His first job after receiving his master’s degree was at La Crescenta Library as children’s librarian, followed by an appointment as general manager of the Daniel K. Ludwig Westlake Village Library.




October 5, 2023
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm PDT
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Flintridge Bookstore
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Flintridge Bookstore
858 Foothill Blvd.
La Canada Flintridge, CA 91011 United States
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