Bard College President Supports Demand for Book Ban in Public Library

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Leon Botstein, President of progressive Bard College, who champions the right to freedom of expression of banned authors Chinua Achebe and Toni Morrison, advocated in December for the banning of a book by Bard alumna Charleen Touchette from a public library.

Bard College President Leon Botstein, who stands beside banned authors Chinua Achebe and Toni Morrison, advocated in writing for the banning of a book by Bard alumna Charleen Touchette from a public library on December 19, 2005.

Botstein wrote the Bard Community to support Bard Professor Kim Touchette Weiss (1977) in her written request to ban a book at the Woonsocket Harris Public Library in Rhode Island. The banned book, “It Stops with Me”, a memoir by her sister, Charleen Touchette (1975) was removed from library shelves over three months ago in September 2005 after a challenge by their father.

President Botstein, who witnessed none of the events described in the book, advocated "restricting its access."

Leon Botstein wrote, “If members of a family wish to harm one another, those actions should be kept private and should not draw in others by invoking matters of public policy.”

Charleen Touchette wrote that “President Botstein’s statement is a justification for keeping family violence a secret.”

The editor of Touchart Books stated: "It was not an easy decision for Charleen Touchette to tell her story. Her intent was not to hurt anyone, but to give hope to those who experience childhood trauma. The many people who have written that reading, "It Stops with Me" transformed their lives testify to the importance of this book being in public libraries."

Martha J. Egan, Author and PEN International Member wrote: “As a child living in a small town and a home where violence was a part of my family's daily life, I can tell you that books helped me escape and bear with a situation I was powerless to change. A book like Charleen's would have given me hope and courage I so sorely needed…I hope the book will soon be back in a prominent place on the Woonsocket Public Library's shelves, where it belongs. This is a book and an author Woonsocket should support with pride!”

PEN American Center, on behalf of its 2,900 international members, and PEN USA, both advocates of the freedom to write worldwide, and Steve Brown of Rhode Island ACLU wrote to ask the Woonsocket Public Library Trustees to deny the request to ban "It Stops with Me: Memoir of a Canuck Girl" ISBN 097654507, and return it to library shelves.

“By doing so, you will be upholding a fundamental principle of freedom: the right of all Americans to read, inquire, question, and think for themselves.” Hannah Pakula, Chair, Freedom to Write Committee, and Larry Siems, Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs, PEN American Center

Judith F. Krug, Director of the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom, and recipient of the PEN USA First Amendment Award, said, “Books duly selected must remain on library shelves.”

“It Stops with Me: Memoir of a Canuck Girl”, the latest work by author-artist Charleen Touchette, invites you into the provincial world of a French Canadian girl in Rhode Island who cannot tell anybody her family secrets. Years later when she has her first daughter, she must relive her childhood to heal the future generations of her family. It is a story of survival and triumph written for an adult audience.

PEN American Center wrote that “It Stops with Me”, “tells a realistic story with complex figures. Such books help readers approach sensitive topics and figure out how to deal with them.”

Author Charleen Touchette, is a member of PEN USA and the Author's Guild. "It Stops with Me" has been praised by authors Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Louise Erdrich, Margaret Randall, Ana Pacheco, and Winona LaDuke, is highly acclaimed by numerous book reviewers, and received a Foreword Magazine Book of the Year 2004 Finalist Award.

As this press release was pending, TouchArt Books Editor Jacques Paisner received an email from the Woonsocket Public Library that the challenge to “It Stops with Me” has been withdrawn and the book will be returned to the library shelves.

Mr. Paisner said, "TouchArt Books is grateful for the authors, readers, and literary organizations who supported First Amendment Rights and the Freedom to Write and ensured "It Stops with Me" will be available at the Woonsocket Public Library for those readers who know they need to read it, and for those who don't know, but should."

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