Friday, July 14, 2006

Support ALL Books! My Friday WTF Rant

My friend Greg sent this to me and asked me to shout it from the rooftops - like I need an excuse to get on the soapbox?

My schpiel - pretty much everyone who knows me knows how I feel about the stuff you're going to read below, so I don't need to explain. Don't like gay books? Don't read them. Don't like gay people? It's really none of your business, unless you want people to start being concerned with what goes on in your bedroom.

When you start messing with books, you really piss me off. Think it's just gay books? Oh, keep reading then. Any Harry Potter fan worth their glow-in-the-dark wand will tell you that there have been Harry Potter book burning parties. Remember who else used to burn books? Little guy, dark hair, strange little mustache, yelled a lot? Oh, and killed over 6 million people for being different from what he thought was the 'right' way to be. 'Nuff said.

Outwrite Books, one of the best GLBTQ booksellers in the country, has come under attack in Atlanta by what I can only describe as a gang of Christian hoodlums who have no respect (gasp) for the Constitution.

I am sending books to support the store. I have posted this email on my blog and am sending it to every writer in my address book. I ask that you do the same.

When one voice is silenced, it becomes easier to silence others.

Sadly a group of some 15-20 anti-gay protesters have gathered in front of Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse, Atlanta, Ga., at least three Saturdays in a row, according to the Southern Voice. A few customers and activists have staged smaller counter-protests. A store e-mail said the protestors have vowed to demonstrate every Saturday through election day in November.

Owner Philip Rafshoon told the Voice that local police said the protestors have a right to free speech; he is seeking help from the city council. Besides its business impact, Rafshoon said he is concerned about a possibly
"volatile situation."

In its e-mail, Outwrite said, "We are grateful to everyone that flocked to the store during these demonstrations and showed these protestors that their fear tactics will not work in our community."

Peter Glassman of Books of Wonder in NYC was moved to write in: Forthright Support for Outwrite
Peter Glassman, owner of Books of Wonder, New York City, writes about an item in Monday's Shelf Awareness:

I was deeply disturbed to read about the protests being waged in front of Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse in Atlanta. It is clearly the intention of the protesters to intimidate would-be customers and so drive the store out
of business. Reading your article brought back so clearly to me a truly upsetting incident at Books of Wonder nearly 15 years ago when we were still on the corner of 7th Avenue and 18th Street.

A woman walked into the store and called out to us and the other customers how we were evil people for corrupting innocent children with our satanic literature. The books she was referring to as "corrupting" and "satanic" included My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin, The Borrowers by Mary Norton, Half Magic by Edward Eager, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. At first we all just stood there in silence, totally stunned by this bizarre occurrence. My initial reaction was to assume that
she was being ironic--surely no one in their right mind could object to these wonderful books? Then, realizing that she was serious, I marched over to her and evicted her from the store, stating to her in no uncertain terms
that she was never to come back and that she was the evil one for trying to stop children from experiencing these great books that would open their minds and imaginations to all the incredible possibilities that the universe
had to offer.

I'm happy to say that this was the one and only incident of its kind to ever occur at my store in the 26 years since I opened Books of Wonder. But I am also keenly aware that this sort of thing can happen to any of us at any

That is why I am going to be contacting Philip Rafshoon and offering to send him a donation of books that he can give for free to any customers who come in when there are protesters outside. I want him to know that there are others in the bookselling community who stand behind him. I hope he'll put up a large sign letting people know they can get free books just for coming inside and defying the intimidation efforts of the protestors--regardless of whether they are straight, gay or whatever. Or he can give them to anyone willing to stand outside and counter protest. Or however he thinks best. I just want him to know he is not alone.

If we as a community do not stand up to this sort of harassment--even if it is legal--then none of us are safe. Before long every bookstore will have protesters out front demanding we stop carrying the books they don't agree with. It's one of the worst quandaries that free speech presents--that others can use their right to free speech in an attempt to censor others through intimidation.

I hope everyone in the bookselling community--booksellers, publishers, distributors, authors, and artists--will do what they can to show support against this threat to the right of bookstores to sell whatever they choose
to whomever they choose. If not, we may all wake up one day to find ourselves in a future all too close to the one George Orwell predicted.

Huzzah! I love book people!
Nicki Leone
Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance

Okay, I'm back and ready to rant. You read it right, folks. THE WIZARD OF OZ. THE HOBBIT AND LORD OF THE RINGS, written by a devout Catholic, J.R. R. Tolkien. You know, The Lord of the Rings? Where the wizard dies in a fiery battle with a demon from a pit, rises from the dead bathed in light and swathed in white? You may have heard that story somewhere else before...

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe? Who is this woman? C.S. Lewis - a contemporary of J.R.R. Tolkien - wrote more on the Christian religion than he did fiction. Did she even bother to read The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe? The lion is killed by the witch, but gets to rise from the dead because he was a pure soul making a sacrifice to save another? Where the humans are knows as Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve?

A Wrinkle in Time? WTF? Again, did she even bother to read these books before making these sweeping judgements? Probably not, I know - I'm being foolish again, expecting people to be educated on their topics before becoming so passionate about them. Or was shshe just freaking out at the prospect of kids reading a book where Hell is a place where they expect you to conform.

For Chrissakes, if you're going to be an idiot, at least educate yourself before opening your mouth. Has anyone actually read the Bible? Where rape, incest and murder are freely written about and praised? Where Lot's daughters decide to get their father drunk and have sex with him so they'll become pregnant and continue the family line? Where Lot tells the drunken mob at Sodom & Gomorrah that they can have his virgin daughters, but heavens to betsy, leave those poor visiting angels alone! King David - dude that hit Goliath with the lucky shot on the slingshot - sleeps with a married woman, gets her pregnant, and decides to avoid the sticky situation that would arise when her husband finds out - by having him murdered. Classy.

My point is not that we should be burning the Bible or banning the Bible. Nor should we be burning or banning Harry Potter (unless Rowling kills Harry off in Book 7 - then I'll light the first match) or Wanna Wrestle or any book. If frickin' Mein Kampf is still allowed to be in print, how dare anyone dispute a gay book?

Well Greg, if you're reading this, you opened up my personal can of worms. Enjoy. ;-)


Little One said...

nuneducated jerks! i'd love to whack them all across the head with those books.

Little One said...

typing error

Roe said...

Nuneducated is a heck of a Freudian slip, my friend. ;-)

Nancy said...

As you know, I am all for censorship and banning books. It goes right along with the nonacknowledgement of the First Amendment and the enforcement of the Patriot Act.

Chris said...

People suck

Stacey said...

Witchcraft scares people where I come from. Gay people scare people where I come from (even though Saugatuck boasts a very open gay community). The people where I come from scare me.

Zeeland Schools tried to ban Harry Potter 1n 1999, they managed to get it restricted.

"Restricted to fifth- through eighth-graders who have written parental permission in the Zeeland schools (2000). No future installments can be purchased and teachers are prohibited from reading the books aloud in class. The book was considered objectionable because of the intense story line, the violence, the wizardry, and the sucking of animal blood. Removed from the Bridgeport Township public schools (2000) because it promotes witchcraft."

Roe said...