The Kansas City publishing powerhouse behind many of the nation’s most-beloved newspaper comics — from Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side to Garfield and Peanuts — this week raised its voice amid a growing push to condemn book bans flaring up across the country.
“Books are safe harbors, where the freedom of expression and exchange of ideas have flourished for centuries,” said Kirsty Melville, president and publisher at Andrews McMeel Universal, which prominently boasts its global headquarters in downtown Kansas City. “Banning books threatens the very essence of this freedom.”
Such efforts to restrict access to specific books — notably those about sexual and racial identity issues — have made headlines in recent months as parents, school boards, lawmakers, and conservative social media campaigns have reignited a phenomenon not seen at such a pace in decades, according to the New York Times.
“All of us at Andrews McMeel believe that diverse, creative voices cultivate empathy, foster understanding, and nurture compassion,” said Melville in a statement posted Monday across Andrews McMeel Universal’s social media accounts. “We are particularly concerned that many of the books being banned are by writers from historically underrepresented and marginalized communities.”
“Banning books doesn’t keep us safe,” she continued. “It limits our society’s potential.”
The book ban threat became increasingly clear throughout 2021, according to Jim Milliot and Ed Nawotka, of Publishers Weekly, who noted the political roots of this “explosion” of challenges to free access to certain books.
“The challenges are part of an organized, localized political strategy on the right designed to activate conservative voters,” Publishers Weekly reported. “Librarian organizations noted that, while book bans are hardly new and there are well-established policies and procedures in place to deal with such challenges, it is something else entirely to face an organized political movement.”
A sampling of the recent challenges:
- A school board member in Flagler County, Florida, filed a criminal report with local authorities after finding copies of “All Boys Aren’t Blue” — a young-adult memoir detailing the trials of being a Black queer boy — in her district’s school libraries. (NBC News)
- In Virginia’s Spotsylvania County, school board members voted to have books with “sexually explicit” material removed from school library shelves, with two board members calling for the books to be incinerated. (NBC News)
- In Tennessee, the McMinn County Board of Education voted to remove the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “Maus” from an eighth-grade module on the Holocaust because of nudity and curse words. (The New York Times)
In December, more than 600 authors, publishers, and industry groups — including Andrews McMeel Universal and counterparts like Barnes & Noble, Scholastic, and Simon & Schuster — signed a statement “condemning the politically motivated efforts as acts of censorship that threaten the education of children while putting the safety of librarians, teachers, school administrators, and school board officials in jeopardy,” according to Publishers Weekly.
Click here to read the group’s statement on banning books.
Founded in 1970, Andrews McMeel Universal is the world’s largest independently owned feature syndicate and a publishing industry leader. The Kansas City company also is a premier calendar publisher, original greeting card studio, major product and entertainment licensor to Hollywood, and boasts the world’s biggest comics based website.
Click here to learn more about Andrews McMeel Universal.