Resisting Censorship: The Children’s & Young Adult Book Banning Crisis
LGBTQ-themed books are under profound attack in the United States. They are challenged in droves and are decreed off-limits by school boards, legislators, and prison authorities. In PEN’s report “Banned in the USA: The Mounting Pressure to Censor,” during the 2022–23 school year, PEN America recorded 3,362 instances of books banned, an increase of 33 percent from the 2021–22 school year, with over 40 percent of all book bans occurring in school districts in Florida. 78% of the books banned are listed as young adult, middle grade, and picture books.
Join PEN Miami/South Florida and Books & Books for a vital conversation with New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer, whose books I am Rosa Parks and I am Martin Luther King Jr. have been challenged in schools across the country, and author Camryn Garrett, whose books feature celebrations of blackness and queerness. They will discuss the movement to ban books by and about LGBTQ people, particularly books aimed at younger audiences, and how to resist the censorship taking over our schools and libraries.
Brad Meltzer is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Lightning Rod, The Escape Artist, and eleven other bestselling thrillers. He also writes non-fiction books like The Nazi Conspiracy, about a secret plot to kill FDR, Stalin, and Winston Churchill at the height of WWII – and the Ordinary People Change the World kids book series, which he does with Chris Eliopoulos and inspired the Emmy-nominated TV show on PBS KIDS, Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum. His newest kids’ books are I am Dolly Parton and I am I.M. Pei. He is also the #1 bestselling author of the critically acclaimed comic books Identity Crisis and Justice League of America and is the co-creator of the TV series Jack & Bobby. A University of Michigan and Columbia Law School graduate, he lives in Florida with his wife and three children.
Camryn Garrett was born and raised in New York. In 2019, she was named one of Teen Vogue’s 21 Under 21 and a Glamour College Woman of the Year. Her first novel, Full Disclosure, received rave reviews from outlets such as Entertainment Weekly, The Today Show, and The Guardian, which called it “warm, funny and thoughtfully sex-positive, an impressive debut from a writer still in her teens.” Her second novel, Off the Record, received three starred reviews. Her third novel, Friday I’m in Love, was an IndieNext Pick and received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Her debut middle-grade novel, The Forgotten Summer of Seneca, will be published by Abrams in 2025. Her work has been translated into 9 languages. Camryn is also interested in filmmaking and has written and directed several short films. You can find her on Twitter @dancingofpens, tweeting from a laptop named Stevie.
Debi Goldberg is the Digital Director at PEN America, where she is leveraging the power of digital communications to advance the organization’s mission and engage constituents. Prior to that she spent 20 years at large nonprofits as the director of marketing and communications, where she ushered the organizations into the digital age by building out enterprise-level email marketing, brands, websites, social media, and public relations systems. From 1994 through early 2001, she worked in a variety of positions in national Democratic politics and campaigns, including the popular-vote-winning Gore 2000 campaign. During that time, Goldberg also worked in President Clinton’s second term (1997-2000) as an associate director in the White House Office of Public Liaison.