(NEW YORK)— In response to a video showing the torching of LGBTQ-themed books by a candidate for public office in Missouri, PEN America issued the following comment from Kasey Meehan, director, Freedom to Read project: 

To see books torched – books that serve as guides for young LGBTQ+ people or offer sexual education –  is appalling. Even if a political stunt, the action is extreme and disturbing, calling to mind a violent history of suppression and denigration of books, ideas, and LGBTQ people. Public libraries are spaces for all people, something that the movement to ban books in this country continues to disregard.”

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Secretary of State candidate Valentina Gomez, a Republican, promised to burn more books if elected. 

Queer: The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide for Teens by Kathy Belge and Marke Bieschke was among the books torched. Belge said: “LGBTQ teens are vulnerable and antics like this only add to their risk of being targets of violence and self-hate. According to the Trevor Project, 41% of LGBTQ+ teens have seriously considered suicide. That number increases to 50% for trans and nonbinary youth. I suggest this candidate leave queer kids alone and focuses instead on the real issues that will make lives of people in Missouri better.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057