More Than 50 Authors Join PEN America, We Need Diverse Books, and the Florida Freedom to Read Project, in Call to Pinellas County, FL School Officials to Drop Review of 87 Book Titles
Of Books Tagged for Review, Most Include Stories by Black, Latine, Native, Asian, Muslim, and LGBTQIA+ Authors
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(NEW YORK)— In response to a decision to “further review” 87 book titles in the Pinellas County, FL school district, three organizations— We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), PEN America, and Florida Freedom to Read Project (FFTRP)— along with more than 50 of the affected authors today called on the district to cancel its scrutiny and reject second guessing a diverse and celebrated list of books.
Of the books tagged for further review, most include stories by Black, Latine, Native, Asian, Muslim, and LGBTQIA+ authors.
Kasey Meehan, director, Freedom to Read project at PEN America, said: “These books by celebrated authors allow students to see themselves in works of fiction or to gain an understanding of the lives of others. By suggesting that their presence may have no place on library shelves, the school board, in effect, is telling students that the stories these authors write about do not matter. This cannot stand.”
In a letter, the groups and authors said: “Targeting these titles sets a terrible precedent and message that diverse books need to be further scrutinized and censored, just because they are by and about marginalized creators.”
Books identified for further review include Blackout and Whiteout, the collaborative novels by bestselling and award-winning authors, Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon. The list also includes Ain’t Burned All the Bright, Miles Morales: Suspended, and All American Boys by Newbery Honor recipient Jason Reynolds. Other books include When Clouds Teach Us by Thanhhà Lại, Treasure Tracks by S.A. Rodriguez, and Finally Seen by Kelly Yang.
In response to the list of books, Caroline Richmond, executive director of WNDB, said: “Many of these books have already been listed as recipients of the Sunshine State Young Readers Award and the Florida Teen Reads Award, both organized by the Florida Association for Media in Education. Let’s honor the work of these Florida school librarians and let’s support our students’ freedom to read.”
To join authors urging the Pinellas County Schools to drop its review, the groups and signatories invite the public to sign a petition: Tell Pinellas County Schools to Keep Diverse Books Available
PEN America has been at the forefront of documenting and defending against the unprecedented rise of school book bans nationwide as well as the spread of educational censorship legislation to nearly half of all states. Depriving students of classic books and titles that examine topics of relevance in our society today undermine basic Constitutional freedoms. Black and LGBTQ+ authors and books about race, racism, and LGBTQ identities have been disproportionately affected in the book bans documented by PEN America in the last year and a half.
We Need Diverse Books is a 501c3 non-profit and a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.
The Florida Freedom to Read Project was started in January 2022 and works to protect every Florida student’s right to access information and ideas.