Pushing Back Against Book Banning
A New York Times op-ed sparks commentary and action
In a trenchant and practical response to “Reading Books in Prison Saved Me. Why Ban Them?,” incarcerated writer Christopher Blackwell’s recent opinion piece for the New York Times, Books Beyond Bars cofounder Ben A. Schatz upholds Blackwell’s claim that book banning is antithetical to the so-called rehabilitative goals of the prison system. (An additional response by bookstore owner Kira Winzer addresses the difficulty of sending books into prisons from the perspective of her profession.)
In addition to highlighting the obstacles that book banning introduces, Ben highlights the fact that organizations such as BBB are underfunded and struggle to fulfill the mounting requests from incarcerated individuals desperate for reading material. He urges readers to support books-to-prisoners organizations, which often provide clients with their only access to books—whether banned or freely distributed.
Our cofounder’s call to action was heard by many, including author Michael Kimmel, who donated one hundred copies of his widely banned book Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era, which Blackwell references in his op-ed. (Kimmel’s text locates an increase in politicized rage on the part of its subjects in their sense of “aggrieved entitlement”—a tendency toward often-violent reactionary scapegoating prompted by recent socioeconomic change.) BBB has already begun the process of sending copies of Kimmel’s book to prisons in New York and books-to-prisoners organizations in other states.
Generous donations like Kimmel’s are critical to BBB’s work, as books are expensive and demand from incarcerated individuals is high. We would not be able to fulfill our mission without the donors who buy from our Amazon Wish Lists and send us book and monetary donations. Your support is invaluable and our gratitude for your generosity is boundless.
We owe an additional thank-you to all our supporters who read and forwarded the original NYT piece and Ben’s response. Spreading awareness about book banning and organizations like BBB is a crucial step toward literary justice for the incarcerated population.