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Final Preparations Underway for Banned Books Week​​

In the final weeks of a summer that has seen a lot of book banning, booksellers, publishers, librarians, authors and educators are finalizing plans for Banned Books Week (BBW), Sept. 21-27. The theme of this year's celebration of the freedom to read is the censorship of graphic novels and comic books. But more than 300 books were challenged around the country last year, and the pressure continues to build with seven titles targeted just this summer.

Booksellers have always played a key role in Banned Books Week by creating displays that show customers that some of their favorite books are under attack. For the second year, ABFFE and Ingram Content Group are making it easy for booksellers to mount their displays by distributing a free promotional kit that contains everything they need. To qualify, booksellers choose 30 or more titles from 450 banned and challenged titles listed on Ingram's iPage. They also receive additional discounts on initial and subsequent orders.

Seventy five booksellers placed orders on Wednesday, the first day of the promotion. Others are taking advantage of a sale of products produced by the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE). Sale prices are available using this form.

ABFFE is also inviting booksellers who are celebrating Banned Books Week to list their displays and any events on the official BBW website.
This not only promotes the store but demonstrates that Banned Books Week is celebrated all over the country. Booksellers can use this simple form to add themselves to the list of participants.


We are encouraging booksellers to create videos about why they celebrate Banned Books Week. Here is Books Inc.'s wonderful submission.


Browseabout Books and ABFFE oppose the banning of The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware has donated over 100 books of The Miseducation of Cameron Post since it was removed from the Cape Henlopen School’s summer reading list.  Noticing that sales of the book spiked as a result, the store decided to increase its impact by giving away the book for free.  The effort paid off when the pop culture website, AfterEllen, publicized the donation and got its viewers to send copies of the book for the bookstore to distribute.


The Miseducation of Cameron Post’s free publicity began with the Cape Henlopen school board’s decision to remove it from the Delaware school’s summer reading list due to ‘obscene language’. In response, the book’s author, Emily M. Danforth, sent a fierce letter to the board that was later published in The Huffington Post.  In the letter she questioned why her book was singled out, when several of the other books on the list contain profanities but none feature a lesbian relationship. In her view it was the book’s gay positive themes with which the board took issue. ABFFE’s Kids’ Right to Read (KRRP) sent a letter in solidarity, signed by other prominent civil liberties groups, criticizing the board for not following its own protocol for book review. District policies stipulate that a book can only be removed after a written complaint is filed and a review committee is called to evaluate the book’s merits; neither of which the board followed.

The bookstore’s efforts have been well-received by the Rehoboth Beach community.  Browseabout manager, Susan McAnelly, said that the store has already heard from one teen who credits the book with changing her life. “It takes guts to take a stand against censorship.  Their experience shows again that when a bookstore fights for free speech the community follows” ABFFE’s Chris Finan said.  ABFFE has offered the store its support and is prepared to step in if needed.

The board took notice and voted to reconsider its decision to pull the book at its meeting on July 24.  Unfortunately, the board could not come to a consensus and instead of debating it further, decided to suspend the entire reading list. 




SupremE COURT UPHOLDS PRE-enforcement precedent

In a victory for free-speech loving booksellers, publishers and librarians, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled this week that a person under fear of prosecution can challenge the constitutionality of a law even if it has not yet been enforced. This is precisely the outcome that ABFFE had hoped for when it signed onto Media Coalition’s brief for Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus. Bringing a more partisan balance to a case brought by Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life organization, we made sure that the free speech issues at the heart of the case were not ignored. Fortunately, the Court agreed and upheld the "pre-enforcement" precedent set by booksellers in the landmark Virginia v. American Booksellers Association.

Read the Supreme Court’s opinion.

Protest at Tattered Cover Continues

Demonstrators are continuing to picket the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver in an effort to force it to abandon its long-standing policy of non-partisanship on political issues. Several groups that advocate on behalf of the homeless began demonstrating at Tattered Cover in December because the store belongs to the Denver Downtown Partnership, which supports an ordinance that bans "urban camping" on city streets. The protesters, sometimes accompanied by bullhorns and drums, are urging customers to boycott Tattered Cover.           

In a statement that is being handed to demonstrators and customers, Tattered Cover says that its policy of non-partisanship is one of the ways it promotes free expression for its customers. "We do not inhibit them by pushing our own individual agendas or any official store position; nor do we allow a vocal minority from outside to coerce us into deciding for those who visit our store what they 'should' be reading, thinking or promoting," the statement says.          

Tattered Cover has a long history of advocacy on behalf of free speech--in the state legislature, Congress, and the courts-both state and federal. Owner Joyce Meskis says this is the only exception the store will make in its policy of non-partisanship.   

ABFFE's president wins Hefner First Amendment Award!

ABFFE's president Chris Finan has been named the winner of the 2014 Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in the category of law for his book National Security and Free Speech: The Debate Since 9/11 (International Debate Education Association), reported BusinessWire. The award, established in 1979, honors individuals who have made significant contributions toward protecting and enhancing First Amendment rights in this country.

Read ABFFE's Interview with Robert Darnton, author of Censors at Work: How The States Shaped Literature





While most of us are letting our hair down and perhaps reading books such as Neonomicon on the beach, book banners are looking for opportunities to catch us unawares in our bathing suits. They have been especially careful to make sure that kids do not have too much fun, banning several both from curriculum and summer reading lists. According to ABFFE's Kids' Right to Read (KRRP) there have so far been five cases of books banned this summer: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Looking for Alaska by John Green, Paper Towns by John Green, The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth and UnWholly by Neal Shusterman.

Little Brother was the first book to provoke the summer censors. It was part of a summer reading program at Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola, Florida and was withdrawn from it because the principal decided that some parents might object to the book's positive depiction of hacker culture. "The right way to address controversial subjects is through discourse. Students and schools around the world have had fruitful discussions that started with Little Brother" responded Cory Doctorow, the book's author. ABFFE's Kids' Right to Read Project sent a letter to school principal Dr. Michael Roberts pointing out that removing a book without proper review violates students' free speech rights. 


UnWholly was removed at the whims of a parent in Murray, Kentucky who complained that the book's content was inappropriately dark and at the whims of a principal who consequently removed the book. KRRP responded by urging the Murray Independent Schools to adopt-and consistently implement-a formal review policy, to facilitate communication between the school and students' parents, as well as prevent the hasty removal of books from the students' hands.


Looking for Alaska by John Green is the most recent book challenge this summer. A parent of a child in a 10th AP English class in Waukesha, Wisconsin objected to the sexual content of the book and called for a district-wide ban. KRRP has just sent a strongly worded letter urging the district not to remove the book. "In practice, the attempt to alter school curricula in response to individual objections means privileging the moral or religious beliefs of some families over others. It is precisely this form of viewpoint discrimination by government that our constitutional system is designed to prevent." 


It is always heartening when books that are initially on the chopping block are put back on reading lists thanks to KRRP's efforts. Such was the case with Paper Towns. The book was initially removed from the 8th grade summer reading list in Pasco County, Florida after a complaint from a parent who was upset that she had not been alerted to its content. The Miseducation of Cameron Post was another book banned this  summer that we were hoping would be reinstated after the school board responded to our letter by holding a board meeting on July 24. Instead of reinstating it, the board decided to do away with the entire summer reading list altogether since they could not reach an agreement.