Libraries and book publishing find themselves in cultural and political firestorms. Opinion pieces in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal offer interesting takes. Neither was written by a librarian, so for added context, I called my friend Les Kozerowitz, who retired 15 years ago as director of the Norwalk, Connecticut public library. 

First, the Times piece, “Red States Are Taking Aim at Librarians,” by David Firestone. State library associations have been leaving the American Library Association. Last week, Alabama withdrew under pressure from Governor Kay Ivey. One official reason: A now-deleted 2022 tweet by A.L.A. president Emily Drabinski, who described herself as a Marxist-lesbian. Firestone says the tweet “was probably impolitic,” and notes that “Marxism hardly describes the A.L.A.” 

Les’s response to Drabinski’s tweet: “I’m speechless. What do you say? What does being a Marxist-lesbian have to do with A.L.A. business? Save the message for Facebook or Instagram.” Is Les a conservative? No. His politics lean left-center.  

What’s really going on regarding withdrawals from the A.L.A., according to Firestone? “The librarians oppose banning books, and Republican-led states and school boards have been lustily pulling books from shelves.” And pulling state library associations out of their umbrella organization.

Les: “Public and school libraries are under fire from the right and also from the left. It’s not just a red state or MAGA issue.” He adds, “Few libraries have books by or about people on the right. If I were right-leaning and didn’t see my personal philosophies and interests presented, I might be pissed. We always tried to present both sides of an issue.”

In the Journal piece, “Cancel Culture Dominates Children’s Literature,” the author Joseph Winter looks at his experience with the left. He’d won many awards for his book “Lillian’s Right to Vote,” but his editor worried about public perception of a book “by a white male author, edited by a white male editor, about a white male slave owner.” The left insists that, “an author’s identity must match a book’s subject matter.” 

Winter notes that, “Many victims of cancel culture are ‘previously underrepresented minorities’—nonwhite, gay or lesbian authors, who have tended to self-cancel after being targeted by social-media pile-ons.”

My take: In late spring, I’ll bring out my newest novel, “Taking Stock.” The protagonist is an Ashkenazi Jew just like me. But should my major characters be restricted to Jews? My next novel will feature all Christian characters. (A minor Jewish character might sneak in—don’t have one yet). Should the novel be proscribed without being read and judged on its merits?

Les comments: “Historically, and especially now, many people who want books removed haven’t read them; they’ve ‘heard’ about them.”

Les has always practiced what he’s preached. “My older daughter once wanted to take out a movie from the public library. A clerk wouldn’t let her.” Being a clerk, he points out, doesn’t make someone a trained librarian; Les has a master’s in library science. “I went there and went ballistic. I said, ‘I’ll determine what my child can watch.’ My daughter took the movie out.”

The world of libraries and books is a rough one these days. How rough? Les sums up: “I’m thankful to not be working in that environment today.”

America, you—we—have work to do!

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Order The Short (Pun Intended) Redemptive Life of Little Ned in softcover or e-book from Amazonbarnesandnoble.com or iuniverse.com. Or your favorite bookstore.


  1. Ronald Eaton on February 9, 2024 at 4:43 pm

    David, For a reasonable fee, I’d be happy to be a Christian consultant for your next book. Have your people contact my people. RWE

    • David Perlstein on February 9, 2024 at 5:03 pm

      You’re too generous, Ron. Then again, Christians seem to make a lot of news in this country. But I know where I can turn.

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