Linda-Marie Barrett, general manager of Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café, in Asheville, sent a version of this open letter to authors considering canceling N.C. tour stops to protest House Bill 2:
For 34 years, we at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe have promoted free speech, human rights and tolerance. We often suffer because of our stance: we’ve been the target of protests in front of our store, we’ve had our book choices challenged, and we’ve received threatening letters and phone calls from people who want us to cancel events because the author’s views are controversial. Not only do we hold these events, we protect the visiting author’s right to free speech.
We are located in a state that just passed a horrible piece of legislation: HB2. We have hosted meetings about HB2 and posted signs to let everyone know they are safe to use whichever bathroom they wish. Our city council and mayor are considering an official statement and policy to act against state law, despite the consequences. We and our city will do what we can to repeal HB2.
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Because of HB2, authors are canceling events at our store. Sherman Alexie is the first to cancel an event we’d scheduled in May. Although we very much respect the reason he canceled, the result is that we have lost an opportunity to connect this charismatic, inspiring author with young readers. We also lost the opportunity to host him at a large venue, which would have connected him with fans in a city that stands with him and could have used his support. Our event could have served as a platform to address an audience that would be empowered by his outrage. We lost all these opportunities, and we are suffering financially because we anticipated selling 300-500 copies of his newest book, Thunder Boy, Jr.
We have read the open letter from children’s books authors and do not understand why bookstores are placed in a category outside of libraries and schools as places authors will still visit. The letter states, “We stand with those who share our guiding principles and fundamental beliefs of equality, inclusion and fair treatment. Thus, we will continue to visit your schools and libraries. We will spread kindness and inspire compassion and hope, as we believe books, in their best moments, always have and always will.” We, as an independent bookstore, share those guiding principles. We work hard every day to make sure books are available to readers and to guard against censorship and intolerance in whatever form it appears.
If more authors boycott the state because of HB2, we will be financially stricken. We sympathize with their stance, but we hope authors will choose another way to protest. By targeting bookstores, they are directly hurting their fiercest allies. Please don’t abandon us; we need your support now more than ever.