Sunday, December 1, 2013

Books Outside The Box reloaded

A brief history of Books Outside The Box:

During 2013 I began a series of blog posts on the YALSA book blog, TheHub, that I called Books Outside The Box.  My focus in those posts, and on others I created, was to be diversity. I wanted to talk about books that included something extra: a diversity element, books from small presses or independently published, that still held quality.  Unfortunately, in October after leadership of the blog changed hands, I was told the books I selected, intended for a fun Halloween post, were unacceptable because it featured unacceptable books.

Early in October I asked TheHub's manager about the possibility of doing a Halloween post featuring authors dressed as one of their characters and letting that character speak. I was told "This is a fantastic idea! I love it; please run with it and let me know if there's any way I can help. How fun!" However, once I had responses I was told it would not be posted because "I really like what you've done and I appreciate the authors' contributions, although I'm concerned that the number of self-published/ebook authors featured in the post may not fit The Hub's mission and guidelines."

I questioned this, and the next response was "I'm sorry to say I've concluded that this post isn't the right fit for The Hub. The self-pub/ebook issue is complicated," adding that she thought it was a fun read - which had been my whole intention for the Halloween post, creating a cute piece for the season.  When I protested the censorship, I was told I could publish the post on my own blog. She also told me she would work with me more closely in the future, I guess to be certain that I toed the line with my book/author selections.

After I made a final protest regarding self-published books, the language about the rejection suddenly changed. I was told "Please know that neither I nor YALSA have anything against self-published books or e-books, and that YALSA has no practice or policy in place that omits them from being discussed or shared via any of our communication channels, including our blogs...The reason I decided not to publish your post on the Hub is that it was too promotional in nature, and came across as a series of book pitches. "

So much for the post being a "fun read."

I chose not to deal with the censorship and  gave the only response I felt I could under the circumstances. I resigned, reminding her that I joined TheHub to write on diversity themes, to be different, and to be fun. I can't do that if my book choice is going to be censored. If writing about a diverse set of books is no longer allowed then there is no longer a place for me.

But I have decided to follow her advice. For December I am restarting Books Outside the Box here, with a post at least once a month celebrating diversity. I will begin on December 3 with a post highlighting characters with disabilities, in recognition of the United Nations' International Day of Persons with Disabilities.

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