Challenging US Book Bannings: A ‘Right To Read’ Event in Miami

In News by Porter Anderson

‘The New Republic’ and co-sponsors are to stage a ‘Right To Read Celebration’ on June 8 in Miami, focusing on book bannings.

In Prattville, Alabama, citizens gather to protest a librarian’s firing and the removal of books from the Autauga Prattville Public LIbrary, one of many events in the United States involving libraries, education, book bannings, and other forms of censorship. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Jacqueline Nix

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

A ‘Right To Read’ Celebration’
One part of Kristenn Einarsson‘s upcoming (Monday and Tuesday) World Expression Forum, WEXFO, in Lillehammer will feature commentary from author Laurie Hulse Anderson, winner of the 2023 Astrid Lindgren Award. Her 1999 novel Speak (Macmillan / Square Fish) was a US National Book Award finalist, and yet the book has been the subject of bannings in at least 66 school districts. A 2018 graphic-novel edition of the book with artwork by Emily Carroll has been banned by at least 12 school districts, Anderson speaks says, ahead of speaking on Monday n the WEXFO program’s afternoon workshop event titled Access to Information, Books, and Ideas: How to Advance the Freedom to Read.

And in Anderson’s native United States, a “Right To Read” event has been scheduled for June 8—the fourth annual “Teach Truth Day of Action” from the Zinn Education Project.

The New Republic has announced its presentation of the Right To Read event in Miami at the Pérez Art Museum Miami on Biscayne Boulevard. The program, for those who may want to attend in person, runs 6:30 to 8 p.m. ET (10:30 to midnight GMT), and a stream is being offered for those who would like to observe digitally. Registration, free of charge, both for physical and digital attendance, is available here.

A part of the program is to be a presentation of the first Toni Morrison Awards for Courage—not unlike the International Publishers Association‘s (IPA) Prix Voltaire, an honor meant to recognize valor in publishing under repressive circumstances, in this case working to counter book bannings.

As Publishing Perspectives‘ internationalist audience knows, PEN America’s Banned in the USA: The Mounting Pressure to Censor reported a jump of 33 percent in book bannings in the United States in the 2022-’23 school year, over the previous year. And the American Library Association’s Banned and Challenged Books data-gathering program—under the organization’s Office of Intellectual Freedom—reports that in 2023, it documented 4,240 unique book titles for censorship (a 65-percent increase over 2022) as well as 1,247 “demands to censor library books, materials, and resources.”

Jacqueline Woodson

One of the most eagerly anticipated speakers in the June 8 program in Miami is Penguin Random House author Jacqueline Woodson, a National Book Award and Newbery honoree. Woodson, in a prepared comment on the announcement of the event says, “It’s important to amplify how prevalent and destructive these book bans are.

“From the East Coast to the West Coast” of the United States, “from North to South,” we’re finding bans and challenges in every state.

“This is devastating for our young people whose choices about what they can read becomes more limited with every ban. And it is devastating for all people because it’s an attempt at erasure. Of our stories. Of our histories. Of truth.”

At this writing the complete list of speakers expected to appear in the June 8 event comprises:

  • Lauren Groff, three-time National Book Award finalist, author of The Monsters of Templeton, Fates and Furies, and Florida, and owner of The Lynx bookstore
  • Ellen Hopkins, author of numerous, middle-grade, young adult, and adult novels, including the banned books Identical and Crank
  • George M. Johnson, Emmy-nominated, Black nonbinary activist and author of the banned book All Boys Aren’t Blue
  • Ashley Hope Perez, Ohio State University assistant professor and author of the Michael L. Printz Award-winning and banned YA book Out of Darkness
  • Katie Phang, lawyer and host of MSNBC’s The Katie Phang Show
  • Jodi Picoult, author of House RulesHandle With CareChange of Heart, and My Sister’s Keeper
  • Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award- and Newbery Honor-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming and many other books for adults and children, as well as a Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow, and former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature

Partners working with The New Republic to produce the Right To Read program on June 8 include:

  • The American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
  • Penguin Random house/ Knopf
  • The American Library Association;
  • The Books & Books Literary Foundation
  • Macmillan / St. Martin’s

 A Programming Note: WEXFO 2024

On May 27, the first day of the two-day World Expression Forum (WEXFO) in Lillehammer, Publishing Perspectives will moderate an afternoon-length publishing-specific program titled Access to Information, Books, and Ideas: How to Advance the Freedom to Read.

Publishing Perspectives will moderate this event, with documentation to follow, in which speakers will explore how “politicians must look at the funding to support reading, not as funding something ‘nice to have,’ but as a pure necessity in the fight to uphold our democracies.”

Among the most serious conference-setting examinations of the gathering pressure on publishing to date, this event will bring together speakers including:

Speakers in the special May 27 focus on advancing the freedom to read are, on the top row from left, Miha Kovač; ; Jørgen Lorentzen; Even Aleksander Hagen; and Karine Pansa. On the lower row from left are Tora Åsling; Mariann Schjeide; Laurie Halse Anderson; and Olav Brostrup Müller

Ticketing information and other details about the 2024 WEXFO, May 27 and 28, is here.

More from Publishing Perspectives on book bannings is here, more on censorship more broadly is here, more on issues of the freedom to publish and freedom of expression is here, more on the Prix Voltaire is here, and on the International Publishers Association is here. More on the World Expression Forum, WEXFO, is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of the International Publishers Association.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.