<![CDATA[SHE LIT: A Discussion on Banned Books Looks at Disinformation]]> https://mailchi.mp/729f922e52fe/a-discussion-on-banned-books-looks-at-disinformation https://mailchi.mp/729f922e52fe/a-discussion-on-banned-books-looks-at-disinformation SHE LIT: A Discussion on Banned Books Looks at Disinformation

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Words get twisted after an author and librarian discuss banned books at event

Over the last week, the American Library Association hosted its 2022 Annual Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C., and a panel about banned books became a hot topic on #BookTwitter with numerous authors and librarians alike sharing their opinions.

From the social media comments, young adult best-selling author and banned books ambassador Jason Reynolds was attacked over the assumption he supported Holocaust denial books being made available at libraries. Nancy Pearl, an author dubbed “Seattle’s most famous librarian” by The Seattle Times who was sitting on the Unite Against Book Bans panel last Saturday, implied she felt bad for keeping Holocaust denial books on library shelves because they’re “needed.”

So, should books that promote disinformation and misinformation like Holocaust denial books be banned from libraries?

What sparked the firestorm is a tweet that went viral on #BookTwitter from librarian Kelsey Bogan who said the panel seemed to have a “sentiment” that Holocaust denial books should stay on library shelves.

“What did I not want to add in the collection? Personally, I did not want to add Holocaust-denying books. That was offensive to me. Did I think we needed them? Sad to say, yes,” said Nancy, who is Jewish, as quoted in the panel’s livestream viewed by Jewish Insider. “But we talk about — we’re anti, we shouldn’t ban books. It’s much more nuanced and it’s much more difficult than one often tends to think that it is.”

As the Black male author on the panel, Jason seemed to be more in the crossfire than Nancy when it came to social media commentary.

Further in her Twitter thread, Kelsey says Jason “did not initiate the comment but did verbally agree/state it too, sort of against his better judgement?” Jason tweeted in response to Kelsey that he may have been “inarticulately trying to say” his thoughts on the subject of Holocaust denial books in reference to banned books.

But the main Black Twitterverse authors Dhonielle Clayton, Bethany C. Morrow, and LL McKinney said the barrage of negative comments about Jason over the panel is an example of anti-Blackness since the author never made the original comment, but due to his proximity to Nancy the commenter, he became more than fair game on social media. They and other supporters of Jason noted that the apologies and clarifications from Nancy and Kelsey came days later, enough time for more tweets to be written up against Jason.

For a bit of background, books that deny the Holocaust, promote gay conversion, claim abortion is murder, or recommend vaccines kill people, for example, usually are not under the umbrella of banned books. They tend to stay on shelves, if libraries allow them, unless an individual or group advocate for their removal from a library.

Most books are banned from libraries after concerns have been brought up about the books being read by children. The books that usually see bans center on the diversity of experiences dealing with race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation.

The conversation was really about library collection development policies, according to Unite Against Book Bans, a national initiative supporting the fight against censorship and the panel sponsor. Nancy, in her words, tried to say she has put Holocaust denial books on library shelves because it’s still literature that should be accessible.

She said the same thing in a 2017 article for The World. Here’s a snippet from the article:

Pearl says there have been times where she’s come across a book she doesn’t agree with or finds offensive. This is a time where she says she has to give herself a “stern talking to.”

Books promoting Holocaust denial have come to Pearl’s library. She puts them on the shelf, regardless of her opinion.

“It wouldn’t be a library if there weren’t books that annoyed people.”

Ultimately, she says, reading makes people more compassionate. “It makes us get outside ourselves.” Something she feels people need to do more and more in today’s political and cultural climate.

The banned books movement is to ensure books covering different experiences are made available to readers, especially children depending on the reading level and genre. The fate of books that could be classified as misinformation defined as incorrect or misleading information, or disinformation defined as false information deliberately and often covertly spread in order to influence public opinion or obscure the truth, is still up in the air.

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