Librarians, publishers file amicus briefs in Texas book banning case

(Mon, 5 Jun 2023 15:09:27 -0500)

With oral arguments set for June 7 before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, librarians and publishers have filed amicus briefs in a closely watched Texas case over the banning of books in the public library.

The case, Little v. Llano County, was first filed on April 25, 2022, by a group of concerned library patrons who, among their claims, alleged that Llano County officials were "systematically removing award-winning books from library shelves because they disagree with the ideas within them," in violation of the First Amendment. County officials countered that the removals were simply part of the library's right to "weed" its collection and remove titles.

"Journalism mustn't be silenced": colleagues to complete slain reporter's book

(Mon, 5 Jun 2023 15:04:08 -0500)

One year after Dom Phillips was killed in the Brazilian Amazon, friends and colleagues have come together in a show of journalistic solidarity to keep his legacy alive and finish the book the British journalist was working on at the time of his death.

Phillips and his Brazilian companion, the Indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, were killed while returning from the remote Javari valley in the western Amazon last June. Three men have been charged with murder and are being held in high-security prisons while awaiting a decision on whether they will face trial.

Phillips, a respected correspondent and longtime Guardian collaborator, had been working on a book called How to Save the Amazon: Ask the People Who Know. His fatal expedition last year to interview Indigenous defenders fighting criminal activity in the Javari valley was to have been one of his final reporting trips.

In a tribute to the deep admiration Phillips elicited as both a person and journalist, his friends and colleagues are now striving to ensure that his work telling the stories of Amazon defenders does not die with him.

17 plaintiffs plan to challenge Arkansas' library obscenity law

(Tue, 30 May 2023 06:00:00 -0500)

Some 17 plaintiffs—including the American Library Association's Freedom to Read Foundation, the Association of American Publishers and the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) plan to sue the state of Arkansas over two sections of a new law that changes how libraries handle material that some consider "obscene."

The CALS board of directors voted Thursday to file a federal lawsuit challenging the portions of Act 372 of 2023 that alter libraries' material reconsideration processes and create criminal liability for librarians who distribute content that the law says is "harmful to minors."

The law, which goes into effect Aug. 1, states that anyone will be allowed to "challenge the appropriateness" of public libraries' offerings, but it does not define "appropriateness" or provide any standard that we're expected to use" to determine this, Adams said.

Proponents of the law have said no one under 18 should be able to access content pertaining to racism, sexual activity and LGBTQ+ topics, calling it "indoctrination." Opponents of the law say this content reflects the community and that restricting access amounts to censorship.

Majority of book challenges filed by just 11 people

(Wed, 24 May 2023 06:00:00 -0500)

Books about LGBTQ people are fast becoming the main target of a historic wave of school book challenges — and a large percentage of the complaints come from a minuscule number of hyperactive adults, a first-of-its-kind Washington Post analysis found.

A stated wish to shield children from sexual content is the main factor animating attempts to remove LGBTQ books, The Post found. The second-most common reason cited for pulling LGBTQ texts was an explicit desire to prevent children from reading about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, nonbinary and queer lives.

A small number of people were responsible for most of the book challenges, The Post found. Individuals who filed 10 or more complaints were responsible for two-thirds of all challenges. In some cases, these serial filers relied on a network of volunteers gathered together under the aegis of conservative parents' groups such as Moms for Liberty.

Martin Amis, era-defining British novelist, dies aged 73

(Sat, 20 May 2023 06:00:00 -0500)

Martin Amis, the influential author of era-defining novels including Money and London Fields, and the memoir Experience, has died at the age of 73 at his home at Lake Worth in Florida. His wife, Isabel Fonseca, said that the cause was cancer of the oesophagus.

Amis was among the celebrated group of novelists including Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes, whose works defined the British literary scene in the 1980s.

Amy Silverstein, who chronicled a life of three hearts, dies at 59

(Fri, 19 May 2023 09:04:22 -0500)

Amy Silverstein, a celebrated writer whose two memoirs, including Sick Girl, from 2007, recounted her grueling yet joyous odyssey through a life that required two heart transplants, died on May 5. She was 59.

Her husband, Scott Silverstein, confirmed her death but did not say where she died. The cause was cancer, which Ms. Silverstein had attributed to decades of post-transplant medications. She lived in Chappaqua, N.Y.

Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit story originated in African folktales, expert argues

(Fri, 19 May 2023 06:00:00 -0500)

Dr Emily Zobel Marshall, in a new essay for The Conversation, has called for wider acknowledgment of the debt Beatrix Potter owed to the Brer Rabbit stories told by enslaved Africans working on American plantations...

Copies of Harris's Brer Rabbit folktale collections, bearing her father's bookplate, were found at Potter's home in the Lake District after she died in 1943.

"These stories had not been published in the UK when Beatrix Potter was a child. It is therefore likely that her early contact with the Brer Rabbit tales (in comparison with the rest of the British public) was a result of her family roots in the cotton industry," Zobel Marshall writes...

Zobel Marshall points out that it is not necessarily wrong for Potter to have been inspired by the Brer Rabbit stories. "By their nature, stories constantly change to suit the needs of their audiences, and this is particularly the case with oral storytelling", she writes. In fact, another well-known British children's author, Enid Blyton, also wrote versions of the Brer Rabbit stories, but unlike Potter, Blyton acknowledged her sources.

"Potter's actions in shielding the reading public from her sources have fed into a damaging and reoccurring appropriation of Black cultural forms that continues today," Zobel Marshall said.

Salman Rushdie makes first public appearance since attack, praising "heroes" who saved him

(Fri, 19 May 2023 06:00:00 -0500)

Salman Rushdie has made his first public appearance since he was stabbed and lost sight in one eye after being attacked at a literary event, joking that it was "nice to be back – as opposed to not being back, which was also an option."

Rushdie was a surprise attendee at the Pen America gala on Thursday night in New York. The author was greeted with a standing ovation according to the New York Times. After his remarks about being back, he said he was "pretty glad the dice rolled this way" ...

The gala came the same week as Pen America announced it was, along with publisher Penguin Random House and a group of authors and parents, suing Florida's Escambia County school district and school board over book bans.

Rushdie, who also this week appeared at the British book awards via a video message, said that Pen America's mission to protect free expression was never "more important" and added: "Terrorism must not terrorise us. Violence must not deter us. A luta continua. The struggle goes on."

Little Free Library announces 2023 Outstanding Achievement Awards

(Thu, 18 May 2023 13:59:30 -0500)

The Little Free Library (LFL) has announced the winners of the fifth annual Todd H. Bol Awards for Outstanding Achievement, all of whom "embody LFL's mission to build community, inspire readers and expand book access for all," the nonprofit organization said in a statement.

The winners include San Diego County Library in California where the board of supervisors voted unanimously in 2021 to install Little Free Libraries across the county, and to date, more than 43 Little Free Libraries have been installed and more than 20,000 books distributed.

Fighting Book Bans: A Roundup

(Wed, 17 May 2023 09:21:18 -0500)

As books are banned in thousands of schools, school libraries, and public libraries, bookstores and others are fighting back. Shelf Awareness lists some of the inspiring ways this is taking place...