ABFFE Defends Author Appearances for Book of Matt

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The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) is defending bookstores that have scheduled appearances by Stephen Jimenez, author of The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard (Steerforth Press). The book has been criticized for questioning aspects of a case that has come to symbolize hate crimes against gay men and women.

One critic, Jamie McGonnigal, the author of the TalkAboutEquality.com blog, has called on the 23 bookstores that have scheduled events with Jimenez to cancel them. He is urging supporters to call the bookstores and has also started a Change.org petition that is addressed to booksellers. “The fact that you are hosting this conspiracy theorist and LGBT hate crime denier on the 15th anniversary of Matthew’s gruesome murder only confirms the fact that you are in it only for the book sales,” the petition says.

In a letter sent to McGonnigal on Wednesday, ABFFE President Chris Finan said that the protest “demonstrates a poor understanding of bookselling and has the potential to stifle discussion of a significant historical event.” Noting that author events are intended to promote debate by providing customers with the opportunity to hear and question speakers, Finan stressed that McGonnigal has a right to his opinion, “but the appropriate response to Mr. Jimenez’s book is to refute his argument, not to deny him the opportunity to speak in bookstores.”

ABFFE noted that none of the bookstores have cancelled an event with Jimenez, who was scheduled to appear on Wednesday night at Politics & Prose  in Washington, D.C. “Citizens must have opportunities to hear diverse and sometimes divergent views and to engage in respectful debate about them, even if those views are controversial,” store co-owner Bradley Graham wrote to McGonnigal.

Denver’s Tattered Cover has also refused to cancel the appearance by Jimenez. “It has been the belief of the Tattered Cover since its inception that it is in the best interest of our society that ideas of all kinds be allowed to flow freely to the individuals who seek them, regardless of what our own personal choices or tastes might be,” Matt Miller, the store’s general manager, said.