Singer P!nk, author Connelly, & many others stand tough against book bans
Updated: Nov 20
by Mike Killalea, NSD president
The amazing acrobatic singer P!nk has us soaring by giving away 2,000 copies of four banned books during her Florida concerts last week.
She joins an anti-book-banning resistance organized by PEN America and supported by best-selling writers, such as Michael Connelly, author of the popular Harry Bosch detective series. Connelly and his wife, Linda McCaleb Connelly, spearheaded PEN America’s newest Florida effort with a commitment of $1 million. (1,2,3,4)
“Books have held a special joy for me from the time I was a child, and that’s why I am unwilling to stand by and watch while books are banned by schools,” P!nk said.
“It’s especially hateful to see authorities take aim at books about race and racism and against LGBTQ authors and those of color. We have made so many strides toward equality in this country and no one should want to see this progress reversed. This is why I am supporting PEN America in its work and why I agree with them: no more banned books.” (1)
P!nk worked with PEN America and Miami-area bookseller Books & Books to give away copies of Todd Parr’s “The Family Book,” Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb,” Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” and Reshma Saujani’s “Girls Who Code.”
The four books have appeared on the PEN's Index of Banned Books. (1) Summaries of the books, and information about their banning are shown at the end of this article.
Others are pitching in to fight censorship.
Blocked Books USA
Travel app Kayak co-founder Paul English’s launched a program to airlift banned books to Florida readers is now more than a month old (5). English, Andy Hunter, founder of Bookshop.org, and activist Joyce Linehan began Banned Books USA , which provides “restricted and challenged books” to libraries, schools, and “anyone living in Florida” for just a $3.99 shipping charge. As of early November, Banned Books USA has shipped about 600 books to Floridians and raised $7,000 in donations (7,8).
“The stuff that’s being taken off the shelves, like Toni Morrison…it’s just crazy,” English said. “The hundreds of books that have been challenged or banned reach across many topics, but a lot of it is Florida is trying to whitewash history and remove the story of marginalized people.”
PEN America has appointed a special director to concentrate on Florida’s rising censorship crisis. Katie Blankenship, former deputy legal director for the ACLU of Florida, will lead PEN America’s fight for intellectual freedom at schools and colleges in the Sunshine State.
Blankenship said, “Floridians are ready to expand this fight against the silencing of teachers and the erasure of key subjects and history from classrooms.” Her work is funded, in part, by more than $3.6 million donated by Connelly and other authors.
“What PEN America is doing in Florida is very important to us and our neighbors,” Connelly said. “We have been astonished to see books ripped off the shelves and students forced into the middle of a fight they didn’t ask for or deserve. All of us, especially those of us who make our living in the literary world, are called upon to defend against book bans and legislation that suppresses new voices.”
Authors Laurie Halse Anderson, David Baldacci, Brit Bennett, Richard Blanco, Judy Blume, Ruby Bridges, Lee Child, Suzanne Collins, Michael Connelly, Gillian Flynn, Amanda Gorman, Nikki Grimes, Daniel Handler, Khaled Hosseini, Casey McQuiston, David Levithan, Brad Meltzer, Todd Parr, James Patterson, Jodi Picoult, Kathy Reichs, Nora Roberts, Reshma Saujani, and Mo Willems spoke out during PEN’s Banned Books Week in early October. (3)
Legislation passed in Florida earlier this year, including the Parental Rights in Education Bill, and Stop WOKE Act, has led to the removal of books in the state's classrooms that discuss hot-button topics such as sexual orientation, gender identity, race and diversity (1).
According to the American Library Association, there has been an uptick in banned books across the US. In Florida alone, there were challenges to 194 titles and 22 attempts to restrict access to books in the first eight months of 2023 alone (1).
Texas # 1 — in book bans
Texas made the most attempts to ban or restrict books in 2022, according to the ALA. Texas made 93 attempts to restrict access to over 2,300 books. (9)
"Did you know there have been nearly 6,000 book bans since the fall of 2021?” P!nk wrote in the caption of a post promoting the book giveaway. “And nearly 40% of the books bans in the last school year occurred in Florida?
“As a mom of two young readers, I can't imagine letting someone else decide what MY CHILDREN can and cannot read!” (1)
Guides to four banned books
— The Family Book
The Family Book celebrates the diversity of families, discussing them all in a funny, silly, and reassuring way, the book’s description says. Todd Parr includes adopted families, step-families, one-parent families, and families with two parents of the same sex, as well as the traditional nuclear family.
The Family Book, along with several other LGBT-themed books, was removed from the Erie, Illinois school system after some parents complained about the book's depiction of same-sex couples within the book.
In 2020, the book landed the 67th spot on the American Library Association's list of the most banned and challenged books in the United States from 2010 to 2019.
— The Hill We Climb
“The Hill We Climb” is a spoken word poem written by American poet Amanda Gorman and recited by her at the inauguration of Joe Biden in Washington, D.C., on January 20, 2021. The poem was written in the weeks following the 2020 United States presidential election, with significant passages written on the night of Jan 6, 2021, in response to the storming of the United States Capitol. Gorman was 22 years old when she recited the poem, making her the youngest inaugural poet ever.
The poem was written to call for "unity and collaboration and togetherness" among the American people and emphasize the opportunity that the future holds.
The complaint alleged that the work is “not educational,” contains indirect hate speech, and shouldn't be in schools.
After a review, the Bob Graham Education Center, a K-8 school in Miami Lakes, Fla, decided to retain the book — but only if it's shelved in an area reserved for middle-school students.
Morrison’s “Beloved” was published in 1987 and won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. “Beloved” examines the horrors and legacy of slavery. The main character kills her daughter to spare her the horrors of slavery.
The ALA reports seeing an “unprecedented volume of challenges” aimed at books by, and about, people of color, and books that tackle topics like racism and sexual or gender identities. Scholars say one of the reasons Morrison’s books in particular are controversial is because they address, nearly all of these, centering on dark moments in American history that can be uncomfortable for some people to talk about.
— Girls Who Code
Since 2012, the organization Girls Who Code has taught computing skills to and inspired over 40,000 girls across America. and real-life stories of girls and women working at places like Pixar and NASA, this graphically animated book shows what a huge role computer science plays in our lives and how much fun it can be. (From book description)
It’s unclear why the topic of girl computer coding would be upsetting to anyone. It’s suggested that the ban has less to do with book content than the political positions espoused by the Girls Who Code organization, which supports reproductive freedom and trans rights.