Taking a Stand Against Discrimination at Book Fairs

From Publishers Weekly:

Authors Eliot Schrefer and Brandy Colbert withdrew from separate book appearances within the past year over censorship concerns—Schrefer from the Plum Creek Literacy Festival and Colbert from a Black History Month presentation. Below, they discuss why they took a stand.

Colbert: Eliot, we experienced surprisingly similar situations with book censorship over the past year. First, you were set to attend the Plum Creek Literacy Festival and then withdrew after seeing that your LGBTQ YA book The Darkness Outside Us was missing from the order form—along with another celebrated LGBTQ YA book—and discovering that the host college had a policy to discipline students for “active involvement in a homosexual lifestyle.”

Schrefer: Yes, that captures it! Then, a few months later, you were invited to present to a school district in Texas, except they said a few days beforehand that they didn’t want you discussing your newest book, Black Birds in the SkyThe Story and Legacy of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, as it was “too controversial.” When your publisher pushed back, the organizers decided not to censor your presentation, but said they would not purchase Black Birds as part of the book buy-in for students, choosing one of your backlist titles instead. You withdrew.

Colbert: All this at an event that was expressly designed to honor Black authors during Black History Month! Both of our cases seem like soft censorship to me, in that the organizers didn’t object to our presence and overall work, but refused to provide students with access to specific books. I think it’s even more important to push back against this type of censorship, as it’s still quite harmful and can lead to more blatant bans.

Schrefer: Soft censorship is usually invisible, which is why it’s so effective. We both happened to be in situations where it was revealed. Me because I clicked on an order form; you because the school district became scared of the “CRT” bogeyman.

Colbert: It’s difficult to turn down appearances where we’ll get to meet and interact with our readers, but it’s vital that we stand up for ourselves and our work. Allyship is also important; authors whose work hasn’t or won’t be censored should stand by the authors whose books are under attack. In your case, I was pleased to see so many other authors withdraw.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

2 thoughts on “Taking a Stand Against Discrimination at Book Fairs”

  1. I’m against censorship in general, unless I’m censoring myself for very personal reasons with my writings, and even though I’m not a fan of the genre first mentioned, I’m having a very hard time understanding why they would want people to remain close minded about certain real world topics like this one in particular. The second one being mentioned is just them being stupid. No one is forcing anyone to read/learn about that particular topic, so it would be simple common sense to let people choose for themselves on whether they want to learn more or not. It shouldn’t be left up to the organizers to decide if something is “too sensitive” for “delicate minds” to comprehend.

    • It is indeed the choice of the readers to choose what they read. And it’s the choice of the festival to promote what they choose.

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