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Pink will give 2,000 banned books to Florida fans, says she’s ‘unwilling to stand by’

Pink performs at Citizens Bank Park on Sept. 18, 2023, in Philadelphia.    (Steven M. Falk/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)
By Emily St. Martin Los Angeles Times

Pink wants her fans to read banned books.

The Grammy winner announced this week that she intended to give away 2,000 banned books during the Florida leg of her tour. “Books have held a special joy for me from the time I was a child, and that’s why I am unwilling to stand by and watch while books are banned by schools,” Pink said in a news release.

The “Try” hit-maker is partnering with the national free speech organization PEN America and Florida bookseller Books & Books in a campaign to bring banned books to her fans in Florida, where the freedom to read has been increasingly under attack in recent years.

“It’s especially hateful to see authorities take aim at books about race and racism and against LGBTQ authors and those of color,” Pink continued in the release. “We have made so many strides toward equality in this country and no one should want to see this progress reversed. This is why I am supporting PEN America in its work and why I agree with them: no more banned books.”

On Sunday, Pink hosted an Instagram Live with PEN America’s chief executive, Suzanne Nossel, and inauguration poet Amanda Gorman to discuss the state of banned books in the U.S. “I’m a voracious reader, and I’m a mom of two kids who are also voracious readers,” the singer said during the session. “And I can’t imagine my own parents telling me what my kids can and cannot read, let alone someone else’s parents, let alone someone else that doesn’t even have children that are deciding what my children can read.”

At concert stops in Miami and Sunrise, Florida, on Tuesday and Wednesday — as part of her 2023 Trustfall Tour — Pink will give away four books that have appeared in PEN America’s Index of Banned Books: “The Family Book” by Todd Parr, “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman, “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, and a book from “Girls Who Code” series published in partnership with the organization of the same name that aims to encourage girls to become computer scientists and engineers.

“Every child deserves access to literature that reflects their lives,” said Kasey Meehan, director of PEN America’s Freedom to Read Program. “Rampant censorship is depriving kids of the chance to see themselves in books and learn about the world and its history.”

PEN America’s annual report on book banning, released in September, showed an increase in the practice during the 2022–23 school year. Between July 1, 2022, and June 31, 2023, the national freedom-of-speech organization recorded 3,362 instances of book bans in U.S. public school classrooms and libraries — a 33% increase compared with the same period last year.

More than 40% of book restrictions occurred in Florida. Across 33 school districts, PEN America recorded 1,406 book-ban cases in the state, followed by 625 in Texas, 333 in Missouri, 281 in Utah and 186 in Pennsylvania.

The majority of book challenges are brought by parent- or community-led advocacy groups. PEN America identified at least 50 groups — including Moms for Liberty, Parents’ Rights in Education and Citizens Defending Freedom — who call for the removal of books through school board meetings and challenge forms. These organizations often empower individual “serial book challengers” who sometimes question more than 100 books.

In April, Chris Cuomo interviewed the founders of Moms for Liberty, Tiffany Justice and Tina Descovich, to discuss their book-banning campaign. “We’re not advocating for banning anything,” Justice said during the News Nation appearance. “What we’re talking about is curating content in a library. You wouldn’t have the same books in a medical college that you would in a seminary. And just because a book is printed doesn’t mean that it belongs in a children’s library.”

Cuomo asked if the Moms for Liberty especially had issues with sexual content if it involved same-sex couples. Descovich replied that the “problem with the books” that Moms for Liberty chapters across the country had challenged was that they found them obscene. “They are obscene and they are pornographic,” she told Cuomo. “This has nothing to do with if it’s male and male, female and female or male and female. They are obscene and they are pornographic.”

Books have been removed from some school libraries in Florida in the wake of recent legislation. Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law — referred to by detractors as the “Don’t Say Gay” law — was expanded last year. It prohibits “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels or in a specified manner.”

Another bill that became law last year, 1467, gives school principals greater oversight of “library media center materials” and requires that school boards give notice of public meetings “relating to instructional materials” so parents can have input.

“Any material used in a classroom, made available in a school library, or included on a reading list [that] contains content that is pornographic … is not suited to student needs and their ability to comprehend the material presented, or is inappropriate for the grade level and age group for which the material is used,” the new law reads.

“It’s confusing. It’s infuriating. It is censorship,” Pink continued during the Instagram Live. “It’s interesting that a lot of these people that defend their constitution so wholeheartedly are forgetting the [1st Amendment]. … Forty percent of all book bans are happening in Florida, and that’s why I’m giving out books to anybody that wants them — banned books to everyone that’s coming to my shows in the Miami area.”