Opinion | There’s More Than One Way to Ban a Book


A recent overview in Publishers Weekly about the state of free expression in the industry noted, “Many longtime book people have said what makes the present unprecedented is a new impetus to censor — and self-censor — coming from the left.” When the reporter asked a half dozen influential figures at the largest publishing houses to comment, only one would talk — and only on condition of anonymity. “This is the censorship that, as the phrase goes, dare not speak its name,” the reporter wrote.

The caution is borne of recent experience. No publisher wants another “American Dirt” imbroglio, in which a highly anticipated novel was accused of capitalizing on the migrant experience, no matter how well the book sells. No publisher wants the kind of staff walkout that took place in 2020 at Hachette Book Group when the journalist Ronan Farrow protested its plan to publish a memoir by his father, Woody Allen.

It is certainly true that not every book deserves to be published. But those decisions should be based on the quality of a book as judged by editors and publishers, not in response to a threatened, perceived or real political litmus test. The heart of publishing lies in taking risks, not avoiding them.

You can understand why the publishing world gets nervous. Consider what has happened to books that have gotten on the wrong side of illiberal scolds. On Goodreads, for example, vicious campaigns have circulated against authors for inadvertent offenses in novels that haven’t even been published yet. Sometimes the outcry doesn’t take place until after a book is in stores. Last year, a bunny in a children’s picture book got soot on his face by sticking his head into an oven to clean it — and the book was deemed racially insensitive by a single blogger. It was reprinted with the illustration redrawn. All this after the book received rave reviews and a New York Times/New York Public Library Best Illustrated Children’s Book Award.

In another instance, a white academic was denounced for cultural appropriation because trap feminism, the subject of her book “Bad and Boujee,” lay outside her own racial experience. The publisher subsequently withdrew the book. PEN America rightfully denounced the publisher’s decision, noting that it “detracts from public discourse and feeds into a climate where authors, editors and publishers are disincentivized to take risks.”

Books have always contained delicate and challenging material that rubs up against some readers’ sensitivities or deeply held beliefs. But which material upsets which people changes over time; many stories about interracial cooperation that were once hailed for their progressive values (“To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Help”) are now criticized as “white savior” narratives. Yet these books can still be read, appreciated and debated — not only despite but also because of the offending material. Even if only to better understand where we started and how far we’ve come.


Soruce : https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/24/opinion/book-banning-censorship.html

Leave a comment

SMM Panel PDF Kitap indir