Book bans. Censorship. Quota systems. Sensitivity readers.
We know the book world is under siege. It’s from the right - with library
and textbook bans. It’s from the left -- with re-writing books and forced
character demographic quotas of books. It’s ugly and getting worse.
Right-wing religious nuts want to bring us back to the 1920’s. The left-wing
woke wacky pack want everything turned upside down overnight. No one wants fair
and balanced or merit-based actions. Everyone has an agenda and the civil war
plays itself out, for now, in these hideous culture wars.
Inside the book publishing industry, it is getting ugly. Most consumers
don’t realize how politics, sexism, racism, and religion influence who is hired
at a publisher, who is green-lit to be published, and the type of scrubbing a
book takes before the gate keepers feel they checked every perceived box on a
growing list of ridiculous demands.
Take Scholastic. The publishing giant distributes books and resources in 90%
of schools. That alone is a problem -- that one content source controls and dictates
what schools get to even hear about.
A few months ago, there was an uproar over a book that drew glowing reviews
and modest sales that Scholastic wanted to arrange to get distributed to
schools - but only if the author agreed to delete references to racism in
America from her author’s notes section. Keep in mind the children’s book is
about how the author’s grandparents met and fell in love at a Japanese internment
camp during World War 2.
Who the hell is scholastic to demand that? The book, put out by Candlewick
Press, should be accepted as is, or not at all. When one publisher wants to
censor another, it sets up an ugly world.
On the other hand, the book made some pretty strong statements that in
themselves sound borderline racist. For instance, the author says there’s a
“deeply American tradition of racism” in her book. She also said in her book
that our culture “allows the police to murder black people.” Sounds a bit
But the point here is that scholastic wields too much power over what
schools get to access. School textbooks are also under fire. The New York
Post reported: “One textbook publisher, Studies Weekly, faced criticism
after it revised an elementary school textbook so that Rosa Park’s story no
longer included references to segregation or race.
So, how do we solve the dual problem of one company censoring books while
also ensuring other writers and publishers don’t overwhelm children with
extreme or very controversial messages on race, religion, gender, war, etc,?
There’s no easy solution.
Common sense can run up against political activism which also runs up
against commercial greed. Not all choices are made on truth, fairness, or love.
Books get published or banned or censored for a variety of reasons -- none of
which may be on the merits.
But regardless of what authors and publishers choose to put out there, one
company should not have the power to make or break what tens of millions of
children get to read. Who gives Scholastic that power -- schools, parents, or
It is getting tiring and old to repeatedly have to discuss and debate these
things. What ever happened to common sense, free speech, and teachers who can
all sides to multi-faceted issues?
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Brian Feinblum, the founder of this
award-winning blog, can be reached at email@example.com He is available
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About Brian Feinblum
Brian Feinblum should be followed on LinkedIn. This is
copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2023. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now
resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue
dog, and El Chapo, a pug rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The
Writer and IBPA’s The Independent. This
award-winning blog has generated over 3.4 million pageviews. With 4,600+ posts
over the past dozen years, it was named one of the best book marketing blogs by
BookBaby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018
as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by
www.WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” For the past three decades,
including 21 years as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book
publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with
many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with
best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen,
Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard,
Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Todd Duncan, Susan RoAne, John C.
Maxwell, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a
panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA,
Independent Book Publishers Association Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction
Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland)
Writers Association, APEX, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association.
His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal,
USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News
(Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The
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