News for Authors

Update from the Intellectual Freedom Taskforce

by Penguin Random House U. S.|April, 2024

Since first forming in May 2023, PRH’s Intellectual Freedom Taskforce has been engaged in a variety of legal actions and initiatives to defend freedom of speech and fight back against book bans across the country. Below, we’re sharing some exciting news on our lawsuit against the State of Iowa and Senate File 496, as well as spotlighting a partner organization for authors/illustrators who want to get more involved.

For more information on the work of this committee, as well as resources to help if your own book is challenged or if books are being challenged in your community, please visit the PRH Banned Books website.

Legal Update on Our Lawsuit in Iowa

Five publishers have joined the lawsuit against the State of Iowa and the book-banning provisions of Senate File 496 (SF496), a historic challenge seeking to protect the right to publish and read books. Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishers, Simon & Schuster, and Sourcebooks joined PRH, alongside the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA); four renowned authors whose books have been removed from Iowa school and classroom libraries—Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak and Shout), John Green (Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars), Malinda Lo (Last Night at the Telegraph Club and A Scatter of Light), and Jodi Picoult (Nineteen Minutes); three educators; and a high school student.

Shortly after the suit was filed, U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Locher blocked the state from enforcing the law. The injunction marked an early victory for us and came just days before penalties for violating the law—which targets librarians, educators, and school districts—were set to go into effect.

In response to Iowa’s appeal, PRH filed a brief in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in opposition to the state’s efforts to overturn the preliminary injunction. The core argument presented in our brief is that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment protects the right of students to read and authors to be read in school and classroom libraries.

Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishers, Simon & Schuster, and Sourcebooks issued a joint statement: “We as publishers are uniting in our unwavering commitment to stand with educators, librarians, students, authors, and readers against the unconstitutional censorship measures being imposed by the state of Iowa. The alarming rise of book bans across the country demands our collective action. Now, more than ever, we must stand firmly with our authors and readers to defend the fundamental right to read and the freedom of expression.”

SF 496 was enacted in May 2023 and prohibits books that contain any description or depiction of a “sex act”—regardless of context—from Iowa school and classroom libraries, covering students all the way through twelfth grade. SF 496 also prohibits books relating in any way to gender identity or sexual orientation from school and classroom libraries for students through sixth grade. Both provisions encompass fiction and nonfiction alike. Books that were removed from libraries as a result of SF 496 included widely beloved and celebrated titles such as Beloved, Song of Solomon, and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison; Ulysses by James Joyce; As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner; Forever. . .  by Judy Blume; Push: A Novel by Sapphire; The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood; 1984 by George Orwell; Brave New World by Aldous Huxley; and Native Son by Richard Wright.

Penguin Random House first filed the lawsuit against Iowa on November 30, 2023, and is also a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed with PEN America against Escambia County School District and School Board (Florida) over unconstitutional book bans.

Spotlight on Partner Org: Authors Against Book Bans

Authors Against Book Bans is a group of authors organized to protect and promote the freedom to read on both the national and local levels.  Their aim is to create a network of authors to work in conjunction with a variety of national organizations, as well as grassroots freedom-to-read organizations on a state-by-state level, for an effective coordinated response against book bans and other threats to the freedom to read.

This group is open to all authors/illustrators interested in getting more directly involved in the fight against book bans. More information is available on their website here.