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Writer Wednesday: The Scholastic Book Fair Controversy

Hello authors and welcome to another #writerwednesday where we talk shop, industry, news, and more. There has been more than one industry kerfuffle these past couple weeks, reflecting the maelstrom of current events, from industry employees behaving badly, to the toxicity of book bans seeping into long standing institutions, there is a lot to unpack and honestly many of the issues at hand are heavy. Writer Wednesdays are meant to keep authors abreast of what is happening within the industry and this one may also feel like a call to action.

So, what is the controversy surrounding the Scholastic book fair and how is it currently impacting the author community? In September, social media brought to attention what has been quietly happening behind the scenes.

"Scholastic — the billion-dollar educational company that both publishes and distributes books — was allowing schools to opt out of providing diverse books at its nationwide book fairs, according to complaints by several school librarians."

Instead of pushing the full catalog, Scholastic was segregating books on race and sexuality in a separate display and allowing schools to opt out of them. This created an immense backlash from authors and educators, who rightfully claimed this action enabled the rise of book restrictions, and that the company should take a firmer stance against them.

Scholastic released a statement, but stood their action. The statement feels like a bit of a betrayal since the company should have the power to push back, but the heart of the problem lies in the pending and enacted legislation in 30 states that prohibits certain kinds of books, particularly titles that touch on topics of racial discussions and lgbtqia+ titles.

Because book fairs take place in schools and without parental supervision, it said, such laws create 'an almost impossible dilemma: back away from these titles or risk making teachers, librarians, and volunteers vulnerable to being fired, sued, or prosecuted.'

Scholastic admits this situation isn't perfect but it is vital to acknowledge they are wading into a legal minefield thanks the machinations of groups that have pushed these legislations through. The true root here is the necessity to dismantle these laws, something that won't happen without extreme push back from the public and a shift in local political power.

Authors can and should continue to put pressure on companies to take a stance, but this might also be a wake up call to parents who do support diverse reads to see how deep and insidious legislation like this runs. The swell of book bans and legislation that rapidly cropped up and pushed through will take years to rectify but it is possible to do so. And it starts with applying pressure to the institutions that have financial and influential impact on local governments. If Scholastic pulled everything off the table in those 30 states, what sort of impact would we see?

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