Public Radio Wins at the ​​18th Annual ABBY’s

WLRH’s Arts Underground recognized at Alabama’s Best in Broadcasting Awards

By Hazel McLaughlin

Katy Ganaway (WLRH) holding the 2024 Judges’ Award of Merit for the Arts Underground special "Free Reading.”

Earlier this month, WLRH show host Katy Ganaway accepted the 2024 Judges’ Award of Merit at the Alabama Broadcasters Association's ​​18th Annual “Alabama’s Best in Broadcasting” for the Arts Underground radio show special “Free Reading.”

Book publishers to state governments are responding to the rise in U.S. book challenges with lawsuits and legislation.

In “Free Reading,” Ganaway invited parents, librarians, booksellers and writers to read a passage from their favorite banned book and share why others should read it.

“It's sort of an adult Reading Rainbow,” Ganaway said. The special aired during Banned Book Week in September 2023 during a surge in book bans.

Ganaway started her career in commercial radio before making her way to WLRH after graduating from Troy University. She is currently the host of All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Arts Underground.

“I wanted [the special] to go beyond the Tennessee Valley,” Ganaway said. “The point of Arts Underground for me is getting those voices amplified that I think really need to be heard. So winning an award—that's further amplifying it.”

Alabama native and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist John Archibald kicked off the show with a passage from “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley and encouraged listeners to read books that “explore power and control” because fiction can often be true to life.

I came across [“And Tango Makes Three” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson] as a Youth Services Librarian doing collection development,” former librarian Mandy Pinyan said, “which is where we select books that we feel would be representative of our communities and our readers at large.” The picture book is based on two real-life male penguins who created a family together. Pinyan said it was the first challenged book in her department at Huntsville-Madison County Public Library (HMCPL).

Huntsville indie bookshop owner Lady Smith chose her teens' favorite novel “The Perks of Being Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky about an abused teen who discovers powerful friendship and acceptance. It's often banned for its difficult and adult themes, but Smith highlights that it “reflects many teenagers' real experiences…It makes them feel seen,” and being seen is how the book's main character, Charlie, heals.

Often found on school reading lists, University of Alabama in Huntsville librarian Kristopher Reisz chose “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain about a runaway’s adventures down the Mississippi River.

“...It’s a beautiful story of a young person growing up and learning that questioning authority is a very powerful, American trait,” Reisz said. “And I think others should read it for that reason.”

During the special, Ganaway reminded listeners that books aren’t the only resource libraries offer. “It’s also an advocate for local music,” she said.

Blast Music, an on-demand music service from HMCPL, streams Tennessee Valley artists for free.

Listen to the full show here, and check out Arts Underground on WLRH every Saturday at 2 p.m.

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