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… And the Ban Played On

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Strong Claims vs. Banned Books:

PEN America, an organization stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide, is collaborating with Penguin Random House, authors George M. Johnson and Ashley Hope Perez and engaged parents in a pivotal federal lawsuit to reclaim the rightful place of banned books in the school libraries of Florida’s Escambia County School District and School Board. The complaint strongly argues that the school board’s unwarranted removal and limited access to books addressing race, racism and LGBTQ+ identities, in direct defiance of the district review committee’s recommendations, constitute a violation of the First Amendment.

“Her Name Was Billy Jean as She Caused a Scene”:

A children’s book featuring tennis legend Billie Jean King faces a challenge in a Florida school district. Leon County Schools is reviewing I Am Billie Jean King by Brad Meltzer and Christopher Eliopoulos following a parental complaint. The objection pertains to the book’s LGBTQ+ content, as it portrays King discussing her marriages to Larry King and Ilana Kloss. King, who came out as lesbian in 1981, is one of the first prominent athletes to do so. The complaint coincidentally followed King’s criticism of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Meltzer took to Instagram to address the challenge, emphasizing support for King, the LGBTQ+ community and opposition to hatred and intolerance.

Off-Center Situation:

Author Masha Gessen resigned from the board of PEN America after the organization cancelled a panel at their World Voices Festival. The panel was set to include exiled Russian writers but faced objections from Ukrainian writers also participating in the festival. The Ukrainian writers argued that it would be illegal and unethical for them to share the stage with the Russians, given the ongoing military conflict. PEN America offered a compromise for separate events, but it was not satisfactory to any of the writers involved. In the end, the panel featuring the Russian writers was cancelled, and the panel with the Ukrainian writers proceeded. Gessen, born in Russia and an award-winning author, expressed disappointment, feeling that the decision marginalized their Russian colleagues. They ultimately decided to resign from PEN America’s board, acknowledging that they hold no blame towards the Ukrainian writers but cannot support an organization they believe acted inappropriately.

Shattering the Façade of a Perfect Life:

Novelist, playwright and poet Vanessa Walters takes her first impressive excursion into the mystery genre with The Nigerwife, which is already optioned by HBO and is the “Good Morning America” May book club pick.

Orwell Would Be Proud:

The shortlist for the 2023 Orwell Prizes, which recognizes exceptional political writing, has been revealed. Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead, one of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novels, secured a place on the political fiction shortlist. Tom Crewe’s The New Life and Azumah Nelson’s Small Worlds also feature, alongside Eleanor Catton’s Birnam Wood, Jonathan Coe’s Bournville, Diana Evans’ A House for Alice, Linda Grant’s The Story of the Forest, and Selby Wynn Schwartz’s After Sappho. In the political writing category, Luke Harding’s Invasion, Phillipe Sands’ The Lost Colony, and Annabel Sowemimo’s Divided are finalists. Also in contention are Peter Apps’ Show Me the Bodies, Hannah Barnes’ Time To Think, Emily Kenway’s Who Cares?, John McManus’ Inside Qatar, Angela Saini’s The Patriarchs, and Ian Williams’ Fire of the Dragon.

Heart-Pounding Thrillers for History Buffs:

With grains of truth buried within the pages, the seven high-stakes thrillers on this list, which combines fictional wrongdoings with very real history, make us wonder just how terrifyingly real some of these stories may be … Featuring titles by Abir Mukherjee, LeeLindauer, Silvia Moreno-Garcia and more.

Books That Are Out of This World:

The Nebula Awards have been announced by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association. R.F. Kuang won Best Novel for Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence, a dark academia tale of a Chinese orphan fighting British imperialism. C.L. Polk received Best Novella for Even Though I Knew the End, featuring a warlock detective in pursuit of a Chicago serial killer. K. Tempest Bradford’s Ruby Finley vs. the Interstellar Invasion won the Andre Norton Nebula Award for middle-grade/young adult fiction. John Chu’s If You Find Yourself Speaking to God, Address God With the Informal You won the novelette prize, and Samantha Mills took home the short story prize for Rabbit Test. Directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert won the Ray Bradbury Award for Everything Everywhere All at Once, while George R.R. Martin and Hidetaka Miyazaki were honored for game writing in Elden Ring.

Forbidden Love and Delicious Angst:

When a gorgeous heroine with an abundance of sarcastic wit meets an irresistible hot cinnamon roll hero in Christina Lauren’s latest novel, The True Love Experiment, sparks fly. This wonderfully comedic romance has a good dose of spice and a deliciously heavy helping of fun for readers who need to blow off some steam.

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