Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Writers Speak Out Against S.C. Literary Censorship

(from publishersweekly.com
by Paige Crutcher)


Writers across the country are railing against the South Carolina politicians who want to strip funding from schools teaching LGBTQ materials in the classroom. The movement, Writers Speaking Out, was started by Hub City Press, which published the recently banned book Out Loud: The Best of Rainbow Radio.

“We decided to call the writers we know all over the country—and have them call others," said Betsy Teter, Hub City Press publisher. "This is an issue bigger than South Carolina. We know it could happen anywhere, especially in the South, and we want it to stop,” she continued. “At least four dozen shirts have gone out to writers, and dozens more are now being purchased from our Web page and at the register at the Hub City Bookshop.”

The South Carolina Senate is close to a decision on proposed budget cuts to state colleges. Budget writers recently voted to restore close to $70,000 in funding to two such schools after their allocations were slashed because they assigned gay-themed books to their students, but the issue is likely to come up for debate again soon when the bill moves to the floor of the Senate.

"My participation is rooted in our county's history with banned books and education," said National Book Award–nominated poet Terrance Hayes. "While the debate over banned books usually seems to happen just outside the gates of government, it takes on a new danger and urgency when legislators get involved. Their actions cause voices to be silenced both inside and outside the books. That's un-American." Hayes added that he hopes the Hub City movement "becomes a corrective to narrow governance and that it rekindles our age-old conversations about the role of art in society."

To show their support, Junot Diaz, Ann Patchett, Emma Donoghue, Lee Smith, Pat Conroy, Wiley Cash, Dorothea Benton Frank, and other authors are buying shirts, sending in photos, and spreading the word about their opposition to the politicians who support the funding cuts.

Cash said, "The goal of education is to move people forward, to deepen their understanding of themselves and others, and to nurture their intellectual curiosity." He added, "The classroom isn't the place to infringe upon these endeavors. You can't consider it education if only one worldview is being represented. It's not learning if minds and hearts aren't changed."

The budget bill has not yet passed in the South Carolina Senate, but a decision is imminent. "The action by our state Legislature has had a chilling effect at our public universities," explained Teter. "Faculty members have to ask themselves, 'Will I get my university in trouble if I assign this book, or produce this program?' Because we're in Spartanburg, Hub City Press is seeing this happen right across town at the University of South Carolina Upstate, and it's not right.” Teter feels that the Writers Speaking Out movement is "snowballing" and, aside from the political goals, there is another element. "Frankly," she said, "we're having a lot of fun right now as we stuff shirts into envelopes to go all over the country.”