ABFFE Mourns Death of Carolyn Forsman

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The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE) expressed sorrow today at the death of Carolyn Forsman, a former librarian who supported free expression by becoming an award-winning jewelry designer and creating pieces that celebrated the freedom to read, including her well-known “I Read Banned Books” bracelet.  Forsman died on January 19 in New York City following a short illness. She was 69.

“Carolyn was a gifted artist and entrepreneur who never lost her interest in defending intellectual freedom,” ABFFE President Chris Finan said.  “She raised more than $150,000 for free expression groups, including ABFFE.”

A poor kid who grew up in a Bronx tenement, Forsman graduated from New York University and the library school at the University of California at Berkeley.  She founded Carolyn Forsman Conversation Piece Jewelry in 1979, creating hundreds of original pieces made from affordable materials, including base metal, acrylic, and paper.  “Most of the stuff does something,” Forsman once explained, pointing to a necklace of Christmas tree lights that twinkled and a small pin of horned-rimmed glasses that could hold a pair of reading glasses.  Her snow globe ring and double helix bracelet are signature pieces in the Museum of Modern Art Design Store.

Forsman sold most of her jewelry at library conferences, where she was instantly recognizable as “the lady in purple” because she always wore a purple dress and dyed her hair purple for the occasion.

Forsman developed the “I Read Banned Books” bracelet in 2005 in conjunction with the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Foundation (FTRF).  The bracelet, which consists of tiles depicting the covers of challenged books, is sold in more than 200 museum stores and independent bookstores across the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.  FTRF named Forsman to its Honor Roll of Freedom in 2001.  She received the Museum Store Association Service Award in 2009.

In 2011, Forsman began donating 10 percent of her sales to independent bookstores to ABFFE.

A memorial service for Forsman will be held in the spring. Memorial contributions may be made to FTRF, ftrf.org, and the Cancer Research Institute, cancerresearch.org.