Update 4/9: The comments section of this article has been hijacked by a single individual (with one IP address) attempting to present Malaprop’s as hated by the Asheville community by commenting under multiple fake names. While he’s certainly entitled to his opinion, all of the following users are the same person: Dale Andrews, Don Reynolds, Ralph Sanders, Annie Talbot, Clement Fitzgerald, Quinton Delgado, Sarah Chalmers, Dawn Peters, and Darren Cunningham. I can also say, as a native North Carolinian, Malaprop’s is a beloved institution by every writer and reader I know who lives in Asheville.
Last month, North Carolina’s General Assembly passed the “bathroom bill” known as HB2, preventing cities and local governments in the state from providing employment or public accommodations protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
It’s a policy decision straight out of the Middle Ages, motivated by ignorance and fear. As a result, major corporations like PayPal are canceling plans with the state, with good reason. But at least one writer is taking a stance on the issue by canceling his upcoming events in North Carolina. Here’s Sherman Alexie:
While Alexie’s intentions are laudable, by canceling his readings and signings, he’s hurting local, independent bookstores who rely on the starpower of authors such as himself for financial sustainability.
One such bookstore, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, N.C., a staunch opponent of HB2 that has championed human rights, tolerance, and free speech for decades, has reached out to ask authors not to follow in Alexie’s footsteps:
Although we very much respect the reason he cancelled, the result is that we have lost an opportunity to connect this charismatic, inspiring author with those young readers who were going to see him on school visits. We also lost the opportunity to host him at a large venue, which would have connected him with fans in a city that stands with him and could have used his support. Our event could have served as a platform to address an audience that would be empowered by his outrage. We lost all these opportunities, and we are suffering financially because we anticipated selling 300-500 copies of his newest book, Thunder Boy, Jr.
If more authors boycott NC because of HB2, we will be financially stricken. We sympathize with their stance, but we hope that authors will choose another way to protest. By protesting in this manner, targeting bookstores, they are directly hurting their fiercest allies. Please don’t abandon us; we need your support now more than ever.
Punishing local bookstores for the stupidity of their state legislature is almost as myopic as HB2 itself. Authors, choose another form of protest. Do not abandon your fiercest allies. North Carolina needs your voice now more than ever.
Adam Morgan is the founding editor of the Chicago Review of Books and the Southern Review of Books. His essays and criticism have appeared in The Paris Review, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago magazine, and elsewhere.