Story at a glance
- Markus Dohle, the CEO of Penguin Random House, has joined forces with PEN America to launch The Dohle Book Defense Fund.
- Dohle has donated $500,000 towards the fund which plans to educate communities about censorship and advocate recent book bans.
- The fund’s creation comes amid a spike in book challenges across the country and attacks on what can be taught in schools.
CEO of Penguin Random House Markus Dohle will donate $500,000 to fight recent book bans in the United States.
Dohle, in partnership with PEN America, a branch of the free speech organization PEN International, will create The Dohle Book Defense Fund to advocate against censorship and to expose attacks on books in the classroom, state legislatures and other spaces.
The fund comes amid a surge in book challenges across the country. Over the past few months, book challenges from parents, activists, school board officials and lawmakers have reached levels not seen in decades, according to The American Library Association. In a preliminary report, the organization said it has received an “unprecedented” 330 reports of book challenges last year each with their own list of multiple books, The New York Times reported.
There has also been a recent uptick in the number of legislative challenges to what can be taught at high schools and universities with PEN America reporting that there are at least 54 educational gag orders in place across the country. A large portion of the bills explicitly target the use of critical race theory or the use of materials to examine racism and sexism.
“We’re dealing with new challenges and bans every week, and these efforts are enmeshed in a larger political battle over the narratives that are accessible in this country,” said CEOD of PEN America Suzanne Nossel.
“Given his background, Markus is deeply attuned to the dark sides that lurk within a society and how things can turn around quickly.” Dohle was in part galvanized to launch the fund having grown up in Germany after World War 2 where he grew up “aware of the dark times and dark history of the country,” he told The New York Times.
“With his support, PEN America is poised to continue leading the fight to uphold and protect the role of books in society,” Nossel added.
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