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American Booksellers Association to screen for hate after anti-trans book sent to 750 stores

Vic Parsons August 11, 2021
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American Booksellers Association sent the anti-trans book to members on 14 July.

The American Booksellers Association sent the controversial title as part of its monthly 'white box' (Twitter/@CaseyBookEater)

The American Booksellers Association (ABA) has introduced a screening process for “hate speech” in the books it sends out, after apologising for sending an anti-trans book to 750 bookshops.

The screening process comes after the ABA was forced to carry out an internal review following an “inexcusable” error that meant it sent members copies of Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters on 14 July, which is International Non-Binary People’s Day.

Including the anti-trans book in its July promotional box “violated our commitment to equality and inclusion” and “caused harm”, the ABA said, and as a result, books in next month’s promotional box will be “screened” for “hate speech” before being sent out.

In a letter to members, the national trade organisation said the findings of the internal review mean the ABA will now screen books for “hate speech” before sending them out as part of promotional boxes, and proposals for several other safeguarding measures will be heard during its August board meeting, according to The Bookseller.

Moreover, chief executive Alison Hill wrote to members on 5 August saying that the ABA was making a $5,000 donation to the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF), which provides legal support for name changes, advocacy for health insurance coverage for trans healthcare, and pursues legal cases seeking to advance trans rights.

“The policy to not review or screen titles submitted is in line with many members’ preference to not have ABA decide what books they have access to, preferring to review books themselves to determine what they read, buy, sell and promote,” Hill said in her letter to ABA members.

She added that the board will review its policies at its August meeting and will implement new processes surrounding the promotional boxes if needed. In the meantime, books in the September promotional box “will be screened and flagged by a team of staff members who are charged with bringing titles to senior staff’s attention that meet the United Nations’ criteria for hate speech”.

This is defined as “any kind of communication in speech, writing or behaviour that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are”.

Other planned changes include an audit of all internal ABA policies and process “through a diversity, equality and inclusion lens”, a new copyeditor role responsible for “reviewing for conscious language and an awareness of equity and inclusion issues” in ABA communications with members, and the creation of a beta advance access programme for marginalised voices that will attempt to get more proofs by writers from marginalised communities into the hands of booksellers.

American Booksellers Association apologised for sending anti-trans book ‘within hours’

The American Booksellers Association apologised hours after members opened their July promotional box to find a copy of Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters by anti-trans journalist Abigail Shrier.

The book describes trans identity as “a peer contagion among teen girls”, perpetuating the idea that being trans is inherently harmful to youth and something to be “cured”.

“A generation of girls is at risk,” the description reads. “Abigail Shrier’s essential book will help you understand what the trans craze is and how you can inoculate your child against it – or how to retrieve her from this dangerous path.”

Amazon previously acknowledged the book’s “offensive content” when it suspended a paid-for advertising campaign last year (though it continues to sell the title), Target also pulled the book from shelves in February.

Despite this, the ABA sent the book to 750 independent bookstores as part of its monthly “white box” mailing, which includes a range of promotional and marketing materials and recommended titles that “publishers wish for booksellers to read and consider stocking”.

Within hours, as trans booksellers flagged the incident on Twitter, the American Booksellers Association had issued a grovelling apology.

“An anti-trans book was included in our July mailing to members,” they said in a statement. “This is a serious, violent incident that goes against ABA’s ends policies, values, and everything we believe and support. It is inexcusable.”

 

 

 

 

Related topics: anti-trans, books

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