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Authors Guild Joins Historic Fight Against Iowa’s Unprecedented Book Banning Law

Close up of Iowa state flag: Blue, white, and red fields featuring the name Iowa and a bald eagle holding banner reading Our Liberties We Prize and Our Rights We Will Maintain

The Authors Guild has joined the historic fight against Iowa Senate File 496, filing an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals with eight other organizations. This brief supports the plaintiffs in GLBT Youth in IA Schools v. Reynolds and Penguin Random House v. Robbins, which challenge the far-reaching book banning provisions enacted by the state of Iowa in May 2023.

SF 496 prohibits books containing any description or depiction of a “sex act,” regardless of context, in Iowa school and classroom libraries, affecting students through twelfth grade. The law also bans books relating to gender identity or sexual orientation from school and classroom libraries for students through sixth grade, encompassing both fiction and nonfiction works. As a result of SF 496, numerous classic and critically acclaimed books have been removed from library shelves, including:

  • 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
  • Native Son by Richard Wright

In response to this unprecedented censorship measure, a coalition of publishers, including Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishers, Simon & Schuster, and Sourcebooks brought a groundbreaking lawsuit against the state of Iowa. The plaintiffs also include the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA), four renowned authors whose books have been removed from Iowa school and classroom libraries, three educators, and a high school student.

The Authors Guild’s amicus brief, filed on April 18, 2024, underscores the far-reaching implications of SF 496, which has already led to the removal of numerous classic works, medical books, and titles exploring gender identity and sexual orientation from school library shelves. The Guild and the other organizations participating in the brief argue that SF 496 infringes upon the First Amendment rights of students, authors, and others, and has the potential to erase a substantial portion of the history of human creativity from school libraries.

By taking this bold action, the Authors Guild reaffirms its commitment to defending intellectual freedom, the right to read, and the ability of authors to create and publish works that reflect the diversity of human experience. The outcome of this historic lawsuit will have significant consequences for the publishing industry and the future of free expression in the United States, and the Authors Guild remains at the forefront of this critical fight.

Read the amicus brief here (PDF).