L.A. Kennedy

Beyond the story

Via The Authors Guild

The Authors Guild has co-signed a statement (Click link for statement, or read below) issued on April 21 condemning the increase in attacks on LGBTQ books included in school curricula and circulated in public libraries. We have joined a coalition of national groups to fight this particularly insidious form of censorship in which school boards, librarians, and other administrators and officials are asked to eliminate an entire group of people from their bookshelves. As the statement says, “when LGBTQ stories are silenced in this way, LGBTQ youth and children from LGBTQ families get the message that their own stories—their very lives—do not have value, that they are shameful.” LGBTQ youth are already bullied and attempt suicide at higher rates than their peers, and knowing that they are not alone, that their lives and stories have value, can literally help save lives. If parents object to having their children read books dealing with LGBTQ characters or subject matter, they can ask for alternate assignments for their own children; what they must not be allowed to do is to violate the First Amendment rights of others by censoring what they can read.

Joint Statement Opposing LGBTQ Book Bans:

NATIONAL GROUPS CONDEMN INCREASING ATTACKS ON LGBTQ BOOKS

Books featuring LGBTQ characters and themes are under attack in schools and libraries across the United States. When public schools or libraries yield to pressure to remove, red-flag or limit access to these books, they undermine free speech principles, further isolate LGBTQ youth and deprive all young people of opportunities to increase their empathy and respect for differences.

Eighty percentof the ten most frequently challenged books in 2019told queer stories, depicting same-sex relationships or trans and non-binary experiences in a variety of ways, tailored to readers of all age ranges. Critics denounce these books as “pornographic” and label them “obscene,” even when they contain no descriptions of sexual conduct. (One of the most challenged books of the past two decades, And Tango Makes Three,tells the story of two male penguins adopting an egg to create a family in a zoo.) Special interest groups have also threatened violence in efforts to shut down events like Drag Queen Story Hour and readings by trans authors.

When LGBTQ stories are silenced in this way, LGBTQ youth and children from LGBTQ families get the message that their own stories—their very lives—do not have value, that they are shameful. However, reading stories that acknowledge their experiences, in which they can recognize themselves and their families, reinforces their sense of self-worth and helps them overcome the experience of and feelings associated with social marginalization.

At a time when LGBTQ youth are being bullied, and suffer from depression and attempt suicide at higher rates than other students, LGBTQ books play a crucial role in educational efforts to encourage respect for differences. They have the power to save lives.

Parents who object to specific books in schools may ask for alternate assignments for their own children. What they cannot, and must not be permitted to, do is decide what books, art or ideas are available to other young people. Such decisions should be made by trained educators, librarians and curriculum development professionals based on objective educational reasoning.

Public school administrators and other government officials (including school board members, principals and library boards) who allow the personal beliefs of a vocal minority to determine what students can read and teachers can teach not only violate the rights to freedom of expression and information of all community members, protected under the First Amendment, they endanger the well-being of the country’s most precious resource: its youth.

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