When the Supreme Court came down on the side of marriage equality last summer, I would never have predicted that in my own state of North Carolina, the legislature would call an emergency session to restrict LGBT rights. (For more info on HB2, see the FAQ from the NC Justice Center.)
What I would have predicted even less are the many writers who have decided to boycott the state, foremost among them Sherman Alexie. Many children’s book writers have signed their names to an open letter published in School Library Journal, essentially pledging support to schools and libraries while threatening to cancel other events (including, presumably, those at bookstores). Names on that list include folks like John Green, Veronica Roth, and Lauren Myracle.
The growing number of cancellations recently prompted Linda-Marie Barrett, general manager of Malaprop’s bookstore in Asheville, to post an open letter begging authors to reconsider. She makes some excellent points, but the most important one is that by boycotting independent bookstores, authors are hurting one of the most important advocates of LGBT rights in North Carolina. Indie bookstores — like Malaprop’s in Asheville, Flyleaf in Chapel Hill, and Quail Ridge in Raleigh — have long been safe spaces for speech, support, and organizing for the state’s LGBT community and its allies.
I was thrilled to hear that Felicia Day has decided to use her upcoming appearance in Carrboro to work with Equality NC to raise awareness about HB2. Cyndi Lauper will be taking similar action — on a much larger scale — at an upcoming concert in Raleigh. We need more of this kind of constructive engagement from our artists. Because what supporters for equal rights in North Carolina need the most right now is support, not a knee-jerk reaction that ends up hurting the good guys.