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ABFE Free Speech Report

ABFE Free Speech Report, vol. 1, no. 5, September 2015

Counting Down to Banned Books Week

Preparations for Banned Books Week (September 27-October 3) are in their final days. American Booksellers for Free Expression (ABFE) has tripled the number of display kits that it is distributing to booksellers this year. More than 450 American Booksellers Association (ABA) members received the kit in the August Red Box. ABFE will be mailing others as part of an Ingram promotion. A total of 500 kits will be distributed.

In addition, ABA members are downloading a variety of new Banned Books Week designs from the Designs and Downloads section of The designs feature the new Banned Books Week logo, which can be used to create T-shirts, bookmarks and counter cards. Also new this year is a web badge that booksellers can display to demonstrate that they are an “official sponsor” of Banned Books Week.

There will be dozens of events around the country during Banned Books Week. One highlight will be a discussion among several authors of Young Adult books that will be held at Housing Works Bookstore in New York on September 29. David Levithan (Two Boys Kissing), Meg Medina (Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass) and Coe Booth (Tyrell) will discuss the efforts to censor their books. David Shipler, author of Freedom of Speech: Mightier than the Sword, will moderate. The event is being filmed by Book TV.

Booksellers who are planning displays or organizing events for Banned Books Week are encouraged to post the news on the events page of the official Banned Books Week website, In addition to informing people in your area, your post will demonstrate the important role that your store and booksellers everywhere play in defending free speech. Use this form to add your information.

Booksellers, Librarians File Brief in New NSA Case

ABFE has joined the American Library Association (ALA) and other library groups in urging a federal court to limit the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance of international electronic communications, including those relating to the purchase and use of books. On September 3, ABFE and ALA filed an amicus brief in support of an ACLU lawsuit challenging Upstream, a once-secret program that was revealed by NSA whistleblower Edward J. Snowden. “Booksellers and librarians have been strong defenders of reader privacy. We want to ensure that the protections that exist in the physical world apply to digital records,” ABFE Director Chris Finan said.

Delaware Passes Online Reader Privacy Law

On January 1, 2016, a new law will go into effect in Delaware that requires all “book service providers” with online sales exceeding two percent of their gross sales to protect the privacy of customer information. The law applies to both Delaware booksellers and book service providers with customers in Delaware. While the Delaware law does not impose a penalty, it does create the possibility that a company could be the target of a civil suit for breach of privacy. Oren Teicher, ABA’s chief executive officer, wrote a letter urging Gov. Jack Markell to veto the bill because it could apply to independent bookstores that sell a lot of books on the Internet. ABFE urges all booksellers to take steps to protect reader privacy. A list of recommendations and resources is available here.

Latest “Free Speech” Column: “What Polls Tells Us About Free Speech”

Two new polls about free expression have produced some alarming results: one-third of Americans do not know what the First Amendment is; there has been a 50 percent increase in the number of people who think some books should be banned; and there is strong support for rating books like movies and video games. In his latest “Free Speech” column for Bookselling This Week, ABFE Director Chris Finan takes a close look at the numbers.

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

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman
My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis

Where: Hood County, Texas

Why: LGBTQ themes

What Happened: Some patrons asked that these children’s books with LGBTQ themes be moved to the adult section of the Hood Country Public Library. This Day in June was moved, but My Princess Boy remains in the children’s section. The librarian’s decision was upheld by the library’s advisory board, the county commissioners and the state attorney general.

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Where: Charleston, South Carolina

Why: Depiction of drug and alcohol use, sexuality

What Happened: A parent complained that the book was “smut” and demanded that it be removed from a summer reading list for freshmen at West Ashley High School. The book was withdrawn without the formal review required by the policies of the Charleston County School District.
Outcome: School officials have promised a formal review but did not return the book to the reading list. An online campaign spearheaded by made possible the donation of 1,000 copies of the book, which are being distributed by the Charleston County Public Library.

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

Where: Tallahassee, Florida

Why: Language, “religious skepticism”

What Happened: The book was pulled from the summer reading list of Lincoln High School following several complaints by parents about the language in the book. One parent criticized the book’s “religious skepticism.” The book was removed without a formal review required by the policies of the Leon County School District.

Outcome: The school superintendent said a formal review wasn’t required because summer reading assignments are not part of the curriculum. KRRP is continuing to work with students and parents who oppose the banning of the book.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Where: Orland Park, Illinois

Why: LGBTQ themes

What Happened: A parent has requested that this graphic novel be removed from Century Junior High School’s media center because it “promotes an LGBTQ agenda” and “encourages children to question their own identity and life choices.” Drama is on the American Library Association’s top 10 challenged book lists. KRRP has written to the school principal to explain that withdrawing the book from the media center would violate the First Amendment because the Supreme Court has declared that school officials cannot remove books from libraries simply because they dislike the ideas they express.

Outcome: Retained.


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 In a crisis, call me, ABFE Director Chris Finan, at (917) 509-0340.
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