October 7, 2023

Mitchell Kaplan: Books are written to be read, not banned

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Mitchell Kaplan is the owner of an independent book store in Florida.

“Censorship leaves us in the dark.” These words are central to a mural that dominates a wall in the courtyard of our Coral Gables bookshop. Surrounding this truth are painted titles of books that have been challenged in some fashion over the years.

I distinctly remember being met with wonderment by our customers, who were incredulous that some of the most iconic books of the past 100 years were subject to removal from libraries and schools. In retrospect, even though I’ve lived through tumultuous times as a bookseller on the front lines advocating for these rights I’ve always held so close — whether keeping copies of “The Satanic Verses” in our front windows or monographs of the work of Robert Mapplethorpe in our photography section or fighting as a member of the American Booksellers Association against the hazards posed by the Patriot Act — I was naïve. I thought the worst was behind us.

The truth is we’ve never been through a period as perilous as right now. We in Florida are Ground Zero in this new, cynical attempt to gain and maintain political power by weaponizing books. Our governor, Legislature, school boards, mayors and city councils are enacting laws and edicts meant to distort the histories and silence the voices of so many.

Authors are openly being singled out and vilified. Their books are being removed from libraries and curricula. They face intimidation, and these laws are having a chilling effect on teachers and librarians.

The full piece is available here. 

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