From the Shelf Banned Books Week

So what occurred to me, when I thought about this occasion, was "censorship lite." For instance, "curating"--the word du jour for bookstores. When the curating is well-tailored to the community, it usually means success for the retailer. I remember, when I worked at a large indie bookstore, how the staff curated the stock.

bannedbooksThe latest edition of Blue Book of Gun Values? Yes, we had it, carefully shelved in the stockroom, right up there next to the hunting books. Today, it might be Dinesh D'Souza stored in those dark recesses. Choosing what to stock is not easy, and the larger the store, the more reason to carry books that may make your teeth gnash. (A friend had a wonderful, small indie bookstore. When challenged about the lack of certain titles, she just said, "My store, my choices.")

Currently, #MeToo has come into play, particularly with the accusations against authors like Sherman Alexie. Some stores said they were considering removing his books. But does an author's personal life negate the value of the writing? Talk about a slippery slope... Norman Mailer stabbed one of his wives. Ezra Pound was a fascist. Some teachers have said they'll stop using The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Little, Brown, $15.99). Aside from the valuable issues the book raises, that's a lost opportunity to contextualize the content and discuss dissociating art and artist.

As bookseller Rebecca Andoff of Type Books, Toronto, said recently, "Finding the ethical balance of supplying customers with what they're looking for without actively supporting writers whom you find abhorrent can be a delicate dance. Bookstores are a workplace that can never really be apolitical, which is a part of their importance." --Marilyn Dahl

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