From Publisher’s Weekly:
There has been no shortage of extraordinary stories from the book world in 2022. But no story this year has been more extraordinary than the ongoing, unprecedented surge in book bans and censorship efforts being pushed by right-wing groups in communities across the nation.
“What we’re seeing is a coordinated political effort to stigmatize books dealing with the lives and experiences of diverse communities, particularly the LGBTQ community and persons of color,” explains Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. “We’re seeing rhetoric that seeks to turn librarians and educators into villains. We’re seeing librarians whose jobs and livelihoods are being threatened because of their defense of intellectual freedom in libraries. In some states we’re seeing legislation threatening to put librarians and teachers in jail over the lie that certain books are pornographic, when they simply reflect gender identity or sexual orientation themes or characters, or deal with sex education.”
New headlines emerge seemingly every day. Local library and school board meetings have become battlegrounds, and local elections are flooded with money from national conservative groups. Librarians and educators are being intimidated into silence, with many choosing to leave the professions they love. And legislators in a number of states are seeking greater control of which books can be made available in libraries and schools.
This is not a time to despair, however, as veteran free speech defender Chris Finan, executive director of the National Coalition Against Censorship wrote in a PW Soapbox this fall. This is a time to fight. In recognition of the foundational threat posed by this new wave of book banning, PW has named those standing up to these would-be censors as our People of the Year.
To begin, we recognize the authors being targeted by the banners. Among them is Maia Kobabe, whose critically acclaimed graphic memoir Gender Queer was declared “the most banned book in the country” in a May New York Times profile. In that profile, Kobabe spoke of what it means to be singled out. “When you remove those books from the shelf or you challenge them publicly in a community, what you’re saying to any young person who identified with that narrative is, ‘we don’t want your story here,’ ” Kobabe said.
Nikole Hannah Jones, Pulitzer Prize–winning author and creator of the 1619 Project, has seen her work not only banned but legislated against. “This is actually trying to control the collective memory of this country,” Jones told CNN’s Brian Stelter. “It’s one thing to have right-wing media saying they don’t like the 1619 Project, or they don’t agree with the 1619 Project. But it’s quite something else to have politicians from state legislatures down to school boards actually making prohibitions against teaching a work of American journalism or really any of these other texts.”
Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly
Last year, PG blogged about The 1619 Project, sponsored by The New York Times Magazine.
Here’s the description of this program from the online 1619 Project Introduction:
The 1619 Project is an ongoing initiative from The New York Times Magazine that began in August 2019, the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.
PG notes the purpose of the 1619 project:
It aims to reframe the country’s history
If one replaces the term, “reframe,” with “rewrite,” one can get a better sense of what’s going on under the auspices of The New York Times, a formerly preeminent American newspaper that has fallen on hard times, as witnessed by a substantially declining circulation every year since 2014.
To illustrate the decline, the average paid Sunday circulation of the paper was 2,409,000 in 2014. In 2021, the average paid Sunday circulation of the New York Times was 820,000. To spare visitors to TPV the math, in seven years, the Times lost 2/3 of its paid circulation.
During that same time period, The Wall Street Journal, another respected American newspaper became the largest-circulation newspaper in the country with daily circulation of more than 2.2 million subscribers. By some measures, USA Today has also passed the Times in terms of readership during the same time period.
Perhaps “reframing the country’s history” and similar changes at the NYT may not be all that attractive to a great many people.
The Director of The 1619 Project, Nikole Hannah-Jones was not recognized as a historian prior to her commencement of the Project.
The 1619 Project has also been condemned by a significant number of academic historians as inaccurate in many respects, including its assertion that the American Revolution was primarily fought to preserve slavery.
Ms. Hannah-Jones also caused a stir earlier this year when she claimed that Europe was not a continent, but rather “a geopolitical fiction.”
PG realizes that he is getting into political issues which he typically avoids, but he has read enough history and witnessed the politicization of fact-based events to be concerned about current political weaponization of misrepresentations posing as “narratives” or “alternate views” that remind him most of all of his ancient college and post-college experience with others who were rewriting history and politics to achieve their own misbegotten ends in much the same manner. .
“Trying to control the collective memory of this country,” has been a strategy used many times in the past to achieve political ends rather to accurately depict historical facts and the people involved with them.