Annick Press Statement on Shadow-Banning
We are deeply disheartened to learn that the Waterloo Catholic District School Board in Ontario has shadow-banned four titles from the nominated list of the 2023 Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading program. Two of those titles, Salma Writes a Book by Danny Ramadan, illustrated by Anna Bron, and The Mystery of the Painted Fan by Linda Trinh, illustrated by Clayton Nguyen, are proudly published by Annick Press.
Shadow-banning is a term that indicates an internal policy to limit access to a publication. It restricts the book's school readership by limiting access to it in a number of possible ways: a student is required to ask permission to read the book, it may be moved to a higher shelf, or stipulations may be imposed to discourage teachers from using the book in classrooms. The point is: this action cuts readers off from publications that have been carefully curated by the OLA and effectively restricts their exposure to important themes and ideas. In this case, 2SLGBTQIA+ stories are targeted. In addition, we note that these books have been written by BIPOC authors and this shadow-ban, while ostensibly based on 2SLGBTQIA+ content, represents additional elements of exclusion.
Unfortunately, this episode of denying access is not unique. Annick has faced a number of censorship issues throughout its history, but never more than currently. Recent titles that have been banned include The Bare Naked Book, Fatty Legs, and The Paper Bag Princess. This is a deeply disturbing trend—one which reveals trends towards homophobia, transphobia, and racism.
Annick Press has a 48-year history of publishing stories that build empathy and compassion and acknowledge a range of emotions and experiences. We are especially committed to publishing marginalized and underrepresented voices. We want to contribute to breaking down barriers and advocate for building understanding and addressing the isolation that so many youth experience. Books can be powerful and essential tools to break through this isolation experienced by young readers. Stories foster a sense of inclusiveness: they say to readers that their choices are valid, and that although each of their experiences are unique, they do not have to experience them alone. And by telling such stories we're telegraphing a message of acceptance and that every child can take their place as active, knowledgeable participants in society, with much to contribute. Shadow-banning runs contrary to these values. It is not only a ban on reading: it's a ban on the people whose stories will not be heard.
We would like to point out that the publications chosen for the Forest of Reading program are carefully curated by a group of highly qualified professionals composed of educators, school library professionals, and literacy experts. They consider audience appeal, relevancy, genre, and diversity in representation. They do excellent work! We recommend that you see the statement put out by the Forest of Reading at https://forestofreading.com/book-challenges-2023/
It's appropriate that our two authors have the last word on what inspired them to write their books and why readers should not be blocked from enjoying their stories.
In her Author's Note in The Mystery of the Painted Fan, Linda Trinh writes, "I wanted to explore what it means to figure out who you are and what kind of things you like, and to do this when you're surrounded by different expectations and options. This is my offering."
Danny Ramadan concludes Salma Writes a Book with a plea for tolerance and understanding, "Even when we disagree, we still have love for one another." You can access Danny's statement on the shadow-banning of his book on his blog: https://mailchi.mp/998b421d3aeb/salma-writes-a-book-is-banned?e=0e62a64381