Publishers Weekly Praises the ‘Defenders’ as its People of the Year

 US trade magazine Publishers Weekly has nominated the librarians, booksellers, authors, publishers, and allies as its ‘People of the Year’ for 2022.  Hailing them as ‘the Defenders’ it notes that in the face of an unprecedented level of book bans and censorship challenges these individuals have stood tall and defended the ‘freedom to read’.

 Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom painted a grim picture of 2022, saying: “What we’re seeing is a coordinated political effort to stigmatize books dealing with the lives and experiences of diverse communities, particularly the LGBTQ community and persons of colour.  We’re seeing rhetoric that seeks to turn librarians and educators into villains. We’re seeing librarians whose jobs and livelihoods are being threatened because of their defence of intellectual freedom in libraries. In some states we’re seeing legislation threatening to put librarians and teachers in jail over the lie that certain books are pornographic, when they simply reflect gender identity or sexual orientation themes or characters, or deal with sex education.”

The magazine writes: ‘We recognize the librarians, educators, administrators, and board members on the front lines of the battle in their communities: people like Becky Calzada and Carolyn Foote, school librarians in Texas who early on helped to organise against this surge with a grassroots campaign called #Freedom Fighters Conceived in November 2021 as a Twitter campaign, #FReadom Fighters became a beacon of support at a critical moment in Texas and across the country.’

“That was just incredibly powerful to see,” Calzada tells the magazine, remembering the moment she realized #FReadom was trending on Twitter. “It was incredible to see how many people were connecting to it, but also that people were connecting to it because they were hungry for hope. That’s what we did. We gave people hope.”

Historically, PW has always nominated one individual for its Person of the Year.  This changed in 2018 when it nominated six publishers of Trump titles as its People of the Year, a trend that continued in 2020 when it nominated the Book Business Worker, recognising the inventiveness and bravery shown during the Covid pandemic.  In 2019, the author Dav Pilkey received the recognition and in 2021 Ellen Adler, publisher of The New Press was the magazine’s Person of the Year.