Pen America

Booklash: Literary Freedom, Online Outrage, and the Language of Harm

Introduction by Ayad Akhtar

In the past few years, the literary community has seen waves of activism that have galvanized much-needed and overdue change in the industry. National movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo have pushed publishers to recommit to accountability, representation, and social justice more broadly. Readers are challenging stereotypes, stimulating new conversations about responsible storytelling, and pushing for a more diverse, representative publishing industry.


The Wall Street Journal

Why My New Novel About Racial Conflict Ran Into Trouble

By Richard North Patterson

Last January, my agents began submitting to publishers the manuscript of my first novel in nine years.

On the surface, I had reason for confidence. Of my 22 prior novels, 16 had been New York Times bestsellers, and in general reviewers had treated them kindly. My agents shared my assessment that this one, “Trial,” was equal to my strongest work. And like my most successful previous books, it’s a law-based narrative culminating in a murder trial.


The Guardian

Roald Dahl books rewritten to remove language deemed offensive

Augustus Gloop now ‘enormous’ instead of ‘fat’, Mrs Twit no longer ‘ugly’ and Oompa Loompas are gender neutral

Roald Dahl’s children’s books are being rewritten to remove language deemed offensive by the publisher Puffin.

Puffin has hired sensitivity readers to rewrite chunks of the author’s text to make sure the books “can continue to be enjoyed by all today”, resulting in extensive changes across Dahl’s work.

Edits have been made to descriptions of characters’ physical appearances. The word “fat” has been cut from every new edition of relevant books, while the word “ugly” has also been culled, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Augustus Gloop in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is now described as “enormous”. In The Twits, Mrs Twit is no longer “ugly and beastly” but just “beastly”.



Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Author warns about ‘epidemic of self-censorship’

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has said she worries society is suffering from an “epidemic of self-censorship”.

In a BBC lecture on freedom of speech, the writer said young people were growing up “afraid to ask questions for fear of asking the wrong questions”.

Such a climate could lead to “the death of curiosity, the death of learning and the death of creativity”, the award-winning Nigerian author warned.


Sensitivity Readers Are the New Literary Gatekeepers

Kat Rosenfield

Overzealous gatekeeping on race and gender is killing books before they’re published—or even written.


There’s More Than One Way to Ban a Book

Pamela Paul

The American publishing industry has long prided itself on publishing ideas and narratives that are worthy of our engagement, even if some people might consider them unsavory or dangerous, and for standing its ground on freedom of expression.

But that ground is getting shaky.


Who Killed Creative Writing?

Meghan Daum

Until about 9 p.m. on Wednesday, I’d never heard of the literary journal Hobart. Nor was I familiar with Alex Perez, a Cuban American writer who graduated in 2009 from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a prestigious (arguably, or maybe inarguably, the most prestigious) graduate creative writing program, which he’d gone to after giving up hopes for a professional baseball career.


Talking About Censorship and Publishing

Christopher M. Finan

In last week’s Publishers Weekly, I summarized the principles of “The Freedom to Read,” a statement essential to the ethical foundation of the library and publishing community since 1953. The statement did more than expound principles: It committed the signatories to fight for them.

Today this commitment is being questioned by people within the library and publishing communities. Many do not believe that publishers should release books that express dangerous ideas or books that are written by bad people. They reject the idea that the best answer to a bad book is a good one.


book riot

What is Publishing Doing to Combat Censorship?

Carolina Ciucci

Censorship is not a new problem, nor is it as unnuanced as banning a book from a school library. In fact, it is such a ubiquitous and widespread occurrence that not only does it have its own, very busy tag on Book Riot, but it merited a frequently cited article full of resources and advice for both citizens and gatekeepers. Censorship affects society at large, but its most harmed are — always — the most marginalized communities and their most vulnerable members, those who don’t have the ability, for a multiplicity of reasons, to access those books that have either been banned or kept out of libraries in one way or another.