(NEW YORK)– This week, Tim Anderson, an attorney and a Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates, announced plans on Facebook to seek a restraining order to stop Barnes & Noble from selling two books to minors, “Gender Queer, A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe and “A Court of Mist and Fury,” by Sarah J. Maas. The announcement comes after a retired judge’s ruling on Wednesday found probable cause that the two books are “obscene for unrestricted viewing by minors.” Anderson’s client, Tommy Altman, is a small business owner who’s running in the 2nd District Congressional Republican primary next month. The suit seeks to make these books available to minors only with parental consent.

In response, Jonathan Friedman, Director of Free Expression and Education at PEN America, issued the following statement:

“This lawsuit is a worrying escalation in the effort to censor and restrict access to literature that PEN America has been tracking for the last year. It is, of course, illegal to transmit obscene materials to minors; however, the term “obscenity” in the legal context is subject to a particular test, to which we would expect this Virginia court to adhere. But even if unsuccessful on the merits, the lawsuit and the specter of others like it are likely to have a chilling effect on booksellers as they consider what to stock for their patrons. The scale and force of book banning in local communities has expanded dramatically in recent months, with a profound increase in both the number of books banned and the intense focus on books that touch on racism or contain LGBTQ+ subjects. Every American should be concerned about this wholesale effort to remove books from the shelves, and to return the United States to a past era when governments regulated the sale of specific books with punishing scrutiny.”

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. Learn more at pen.org.

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