Here's to Banned Books Week 2013!
Audience at Paradise Banned: Poetry Readings From Banned Books which was hosted by Housing Works Bookstore and Cafe)
Bookstores proved again this year that celebrating Banned
Books Week (BBW) is both fun and good for business. ABFFE joined
Manhattan's Housing Works Bookstore and the PEN American Center to present Paradise Banned: Poetry Readings from Banned Books.
Over 100 New Yorkers attended, hippies and hipsters alike, and enjoyed
banned poems read by contemporary poets, including Timothy Donnelly and
Aimee Herman. Housing Works also created a beautiful window display that featured banned chapbooks as well as perennial BBW classics such as Fahrenheit 451.
"I think that it's very important that independent bookstores celebrate
Banned Books Week, just because of that word 'independent,' " Amanda
Bullock, Housing Works director of public programming, explained. "We're
in that unique position to shed light on things like this, and have
done it throughout history." Marshall Reese filmed the event and you can see the videos here.
booksellers reported lively discussions with their customers about
censorship and First Amendment issues. Using promotional material from a
BBW kit created by ABFFE and distributed by Ingram Content Group,
bookstores mounted displays of books that led customers to ask why some
of their favorites had banned or challenged.
Rachel Ormiston from Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena
said that sales have benefited from these discussions with several
banned titles briefly appearing on the store's bestsellers list. BBW
coincided with the opening of Northshire Bookstore's
new store in Saratoga Springs, New York. Northshire's Tara Swahlan said
the store's large display prompted one woman to buy several children's
books with the intention of sending them to a library or school where
they had been banned.
several years the MLRC Institute has arranged for media lawyers to
speak on a variety of free speech issues in bookstores. In September
and October MLRC speakers appeared at Vroman's, Last Bookstore in Los Angeles, Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati,57th Street Books in Chicago, Borderland Books in San Francisco and Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA. ABFFE's
Chris Finan discussed efforts to censor YA books during a speech
sponsored by the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library at the Indianapolis
Northshire Bookstore's display of banned titles for Banned Books Week 2013 (left) and the Strand Book Store's display (right).
Holiday Art Auction Hits
Holiday Children's Book Art Auction that closed Tuesday hit a new high, raising
more than $10,000 to help defend the free speech rights of kids. Winning
bidders walked away with 80 pieces by leading artists and illustrators.
"We are delighted by the success of this year's auction," Chris
Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
(ABFFE), said. "The holiday auction has grown rapidly since it was
launched last year. We are very grateful to the artists for their support."
ABFFE, the bookseller's voice in the fight against censorship, uses the
proceeds of the auction to support the Kids' Right to Read Project, which
assists people fighting book challenges in schools and libraries, and Banned
Books Week, the annual celebration of the freedom to read.
ABFFE Defends Author Appearances for Book
The American Booksellers Foundation
for Free Expression recently sent out a press release and a letter defending bookstores that have scheduled appearances by
Stephen Jimenez, author of The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder
of Matthew Shepard. Just published
by Steerforth Press, the book has been criticized for questioning aspects of a
case that came to symbolize the problem of crimes that target gay men and
One critic, Jamie McGonnigal, the author of the TalkAboutEquality.com blog, wants the 23 bookstores that have scheduled events
with Jimenez to cancel them. He has
urged supporters to call the bookstores and has also created a petition on Change.org
that is addressed to booksellers.In a letter sent to McGonnigal today,
ABFFE President Chris Finan says that the protest "demonstrates a poor
understanding of bookselling and has the potential to stifle discussion of a
significant historical event.” Author
events are intended to promote debate by giving customers the opportunity to
hear and question speakers. "We believe
that you have a right to your opinion,” the letter concludes. "But the appropriate response to Mr.
Jimenez’s book is to refute
his argument, not to deny him the opportunity to speak in bookstores.” A
copy of the letter is available here.
bookstore has cancelled an event with Jimenez.
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Victory! Bless Me, Ultima Returned to Classrooms
Following letters from the Kids' Right to Read Project decrying the removal of Bless Me, Ultima
by Rudolfo Anaya from Teton County school district classroms,
Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme revoked the ban and vowed to follow
Our policy, Woolstenhulme was quoted as saying, "talks about
addressing complaints promptly. The next two words say ‘and equitably,’
and I believe my response was to students and parents that had strong
concerns over this book, and yet I recognize a bigger majority of
students and parents did not have any objection to this book, and this
information, and this material. I’m not on solid ground if I can’t
defend to the board and to the public in an open meeting and look
everybody right in the eye and say I’m doing everything I can to follow
The lack of policy followed in this instance was at the center of a
follow-up letter from Kids' Right to Read. Woolstenhulme had
also previously said he would not read the book, as he did not believe
any published work should ever contain profanity, in particular the word