‘Chilling’: Ariana Grande, Amanda Gorman and others sign letter against book bans
Ariana Grande, Guerillmo del Toro, Mark Ruffalo and Amanda Gorman are among the over 175 actors, entertainers, authors, activists and more who have signed an open letter calling on Hollywood to use their influence to oppose book bans.
The letter, spearheaded by Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton and published via the political advocacy organization MoveOn Political Action, calls out books bans in US schools as “restrictive behavior” that is “antithetical to free speech and expression”. It also emphasizes the “chilling effect” the bans, often implemented at the local level, can have “on the broader creative field.”
“We cannot stress enough how these censorious efforts will not end with book bans,” the letter states. “It’s only a matter of time before regressive, suppressive ideologues will shift their focus toward other forms of art and entertainment, to further their attacks and efforts to scapegoat marginalized communities, particularly BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks.”
“We refuse to remain silent as one creative field is subjected to oppressive bans,” the letter continues. “As artists, we must band together, because a threat to one form of art is a threat to us all.”
The letter encourages signatories to “join us in pushing back against these book bans, support free and open creative industries – regardless of personal or ideological disagreements – and use their voice at the local level to stop these bans in their school districts.”
It concludes that “there is power in artistic freedom, and we refuse to allow draconian politicians to take that from us”.
Signatories also include Idina Menzel, Gabrielle Union, Abigail Disney, Andy Cohen, Judd Apatow, Judy Blume, Margaret Atwood, Padma Lakshmi, Ron Perlman and Sharon Stone.
“It’s embarrassing that we are banning books in this country, in this culture, in this day and age. And it’s dangerous that a handful of individuals are deciding that any book with Black and queer people is divisive,” Burton told the Hollywood Reporter, which first reported the letter. “We are calling on everyone to join us in raising their voices to uphold artistic freedom, embrace multicultural history and put a stop once and for all to book bans.”
The letter coincides with National Banned Book Month and corresponds with a movement by Republican-led governments and conservative groups to ban books in schools, particularly related to LGBTQ+ issues or race. Book bans hit an all-time high in the US in 2022 across 21 years of recording, according to Education Week. The research organization PEN America recorded over 4,000 book challenges and bans in school districts since June 2021. In Texas, there were 1,269 documented censorship attempts to restrict 2,571 unique titles in 2022 – the highest number ever recorded by the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom and double the 729 book challenges made in 2021.
The letter is connected to MoveOn’s Banned Bookmobile, which launched a multi-city tour this summer to distribute free banned books in Florida, where DeSantis has heralded an increase in content restrictions. The bookmobile will resume in several more states, including South Carolina, Virginia and Georgia, in October.