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ABFE Free Speech Report

ABFE Free Speech Report, vol. 2, no. 2, March 2016

“Free Speech” Column Warns of the Dangers of Self-Censorship

Two new children’s books have generated great controversy. Critics contend that A Fine Dessert (Schwartz & Wade) and A Birthday Cake for George Washington (Scholastic) give kids a distorted view of history because they include images of smiling slaves. In mid-January, Scholastic, after defending its book only a few days earlier, announced that it had stopped distributing it. Chris Finan, director of American Booksellers for Free Expression (ABFE), addresses the implications of this extraordinary act in his latest “Free Speech” column in Bookselling This Week.
 

Banned Books Week to Feature Diverse Books

ABFE and the other members of the Banned Books Week Coalition have announced that the theme of this year’s celebration (September 25-October 1) will be diverse books. A large and growing number of books that are challenged in the United States are by authors of color or they feature characters who are minority members because of their racial, ethnic, religious or sexual identity. In partnership with We Need Diverse Books, Banned Books Week will emphasize the importance of the freedom to read books that explore the experiences of all groups. Hundreds of bookstores participate in Banned Books Week every year.

China Confirms Arrests of Hong Kong Booksellers

On February 4, Chinese authorities confirmed that they had arrested several Hong Kong booksellers who have been missing since last fall. The men are being investigated for “illegal activities,” police officials said.  Their real crime appears to be that they are employees of Mighty Current, a Hong Kong publisher and bookseller that distributes works critical of the Chinese leadership.  Two owners of Mighty Current are also reportedly in custody. On February 17, the American Booksellers Association joined PEN American Center and others in urging the chief executive of Hong Kong to intervene with Chinese officials on behalf of the men. ABA first expressed its concern over the fate of the men in January.

ABFE Joins Protest Over Cancellation of Play About Palestinian Conflict

ABFE has joined a protest over the Miami Jewish Community Center’s decision to cancel a play after only four performances because of complaints that it is critical of Israel. The JCC’s Cultural Arts Theater was staging Crossing Jerusalem, a play by Julia Pascal, a British playwright who is Jewish. The play, set in Jerusalem during the Palestinian uprising in 2002, is a family drama that attempts to reflect the complex political realities of the Arab-Israeli conflict. ABFE endorsed a February 23 statement by the National Coalition Against Censorship that was signed by the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund, Arts Integrity Initiative, and dozens of artists, dramatists, and theater advocates.

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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