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ABFE Free Speech Report

ABFE Free Speech Report, vol. 1, no. 6, October 2015

Booksellers Cheer Banned Books Week in ABFE Survey

“Banned Books Week is my favorite week of the year,” Kathy Adams from Valley Bookseller in Stillwater, Minnesota, recently told NPR. “Seriously, it’s better than Christmas.”

A survey of 485 bookstores that received Banned Books Week promotional kits from the American Booksellers for Free Expression (ABFE) suggests that many booksellers share Kathy’s enthusiasm. One hundred and thirty seven bookstores responded to the survey, which reveals some interesting facts about bookseller participation in Banned Books Week:

  • 65 per cent of respondents participate every year and another 14 per cent “frequently;”
  • 12 per cent participated for the first time;
  • 94 per cent created displays of banned books; 16 stores (12 per cent) also presented events;
  • The favorite item in the promotional kit was 25-feet of yellow Caution tape;
  • 81 per cent will “definitely” participate next year; another 16 per cent “probably” will.

There were many interesting observations in the “comments” sections of the survey. Some of them are quoted in an article in Bookselling This Week.

Joyce Meskis Honored for Free Expression Work

Joyce Meskis, the owner of Denver’s Tattered Cover Book Store, has been honored for defending free speech many times during her long career. In 1984 and again in 2000, Tattered Cover was a plaintiff in lawsuits that reached the Colorado Supreme Court and created important legal precedents for the citizens of her state. So it is not surprising that a local group, the Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, is one of the first to honor her since she announced that she will retire in 2017.

The coalition held a reception for Meskis on October 9 during a national Freedom of Information Summit in Denver. Governor John Hickenlooper contributed to the event by videotape. The Tattered Cover is “the cement that holds together all those different pieces of our civic tapestry. And behind so much of it has been Joyce Meskis,” Hickenlooper said. Meskis was typically modest in her remarks. “This is an amazing evening for me,” she said. “What I do in bookselling is because of you. Without you, as readers, we don’t have a bookstore.”

Media Coalition Launches Foundation

Media Coalition, a trade association that has been fighting to preserve free speech since 1973, has created a foundation to help raise funds to defend the First Amendment rights of booksellers and their customers as well as other producers and distributors of constitutionally protected material. The Media Coalition Foundation is a tax-exempt organization that will offer individuals and others the opportunity to make tax-deductible contributions to support its work.

The foundation will challenge unconstitutional laws, file amicus briefs in the Supreme Court and support other organizations’ ability to protect free speech. It will also undertake public education efforts by publishing reports and providing resource material to educate elected officials, journalists and the public about First Amendment issues.

Joyce Meskis strongly endorsed the Media Coalition Foundation in its first press release. “Media Coalition has come to the rescue of Tattered Cover on multiple occasions over the last 40 years,” she said. “Together, we have fought bad laws that have encroached on the First Amendment rights of readers and battled all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court to fight against a search warrant that threatened the privacy of customer records. We are grateful for the continued vigilance of Media Coalition in protecting our First Amendment rights and the new Foundation’s potential for doing so in the future.”

Learn more about the Media Coalition Foundation.

Regional Booksellers Support ABFE

ABFE gratefully acknowledges the recent contributions by the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA) and the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA). NEIBA and NAIBA are regular contributors. In recent years, NAIBA has donated money to ABFE in conjunction with its Carla Cohen Free Speech Award, which is given to a children’s book because “awareness of constitutional rights needs to begin at the beginning of true consciousness.” This year’s award went to The Case for Loving by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls (Scholastic). The book tells the story of the legal case that overturned laws banning interracial marriage.

Latest Free Speech Column: “A New Frontier in Fight for Reader Privacy”

ABFE Director Chris Finan’s latest column in Bookselling This Week discusses why ABA has filed an amicus brief in a new ACLU challenge to a National Security Agency surveillance program. Reader privacy is at stake. Read the column here.

Kids’ Right to Read Project (KRRP) Update: Latest Book Challenges

City of Thieves by David Benioff

Where: Nashville, Tennessee

Why: Sexual content, language

What Happened: Words describing sexual activity and excrement were removed from the book by school officials at Nashville Prep. The book was assigned to seventh grade students.

Outcome : The Kids’ Right to Read Project protested the expurgation in a letter to the chief executive officer of the company that owns the school. He acknowledged the mistake and promised that the book would not be censored the next time it is taught.

Death and the Maiden by Ariel Dorfman

Cal by Bernard MacLaverty

Where: Rumson, New Jersey

Why: Sexual content, language

What Happened: The parent of a student at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School posted an online petition urging the board of education to remove the two books for “vulgar language” and “explicit sexual passages.” The parent also wants to require that permission be sought before students are exposed to books, films or other media with objectionable content.

Outcome: Parents spoke on both sides of the issue at a school board meeting on October 13. A decision is pending.

The American Booksellers for Free Expression, a program of the American Booksellers Association, is the bookseller's voice in the fight against censorship. Please visit our resources page for information about how booksellers can prepare for a variety of free speech emergencies or email abfe@bookweb.org. In a crisis, call me, ABFE Director Chris Finan, at (917) 509-0340.
 
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