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 extreme.
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 governments?
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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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 Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult: www.linkedin.com/in/brianfeinblum.