Authors join PEN America to protest at book bans 

Bestselling US authors and illustrators including Margaret Attwood, Neil Gaiman and Art Spiegelman have joined PEN America, currently celebrating its centenary, to protest at the decision by school districts in Missouri to ban a range of titles from school libraries.

In an open letter the authors write: “Provisions in the law that exempt materials of artistic or anthropological significance are clearly being ignored,” the authors write.  “Students have been barred from checking out works on Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, graphic novel adaptations of classics by Shakespeare and Mark Twain  as well as The Gettysburg Address,  the Pulitzer-prize winning  Maus, and other books about the Holocaust. Districts have banned comics about Batman, X-Men, and Watchmen;  The Complete Guide to Drawing & Painting  by Reader’s Digest;  Women  (a book of photographs by Annie Leibovitz); and  The Children’s Bible.”

The letter continues: “Such overzealous book banning is going to do more harm than good. Book bans limit opportunities for students to see themselves in literature and to build empathy for experiences different from their own….Students in Missouri are having these educational opportunities denied.”

According to PEN America, Missouri has banned 300 books in 11 school districts.  PEN America’s director of free expression and education programs, Jonathan Friedman, said:  “Even amid an avalanche of book bans this fall, the removals in Missouri stand out. These districts–and likely others–have deputized themselves censors, sweeping up in a dragnet all manner of educational materials often with little documented justification. These districts seemingly sought to purge any potentially offending visual material to avoid running afoul of the new law. In so doing, they have cast aside the rights of students to read and learn, as well as the fundamental mission of public education and school libraries.”