Author Susan Hill has cancelled a bookshop appearance because of the shop's anti-Trump views and actions.
Writing in The Spectator, Hill, author of The Woman in Black, said that her decision to withdraw from appearing at the bookshop - which she declined to name - was because she found fault in the shop's decision to champion anti-Trump literature and views whilst declining to stock pro-Trump titles. She said that this "bias" was interfering with the rights of customers to "browse and buy whatever they wish". The bookshop she referred to has since been revealed as The Book Hive in Norwich.
Hill said: “[The bookshop has put its] own political and personal views about the USA and its President before [its] business, [its] customers and what a bookshop is and must, more than any other sort of shop or business, be about”.
She said: "If I find a general bookshop, of medium size, of course I know it cannot stock everything, though I hope it will be efficient enough to obtain anything for me. I expect to browse, and come across a book by a scientist who is a prominent supporter of the man-made global warming theory next to one by another whose view is the opposite... I do not expect this bookshop, wherever it is, city or market town, to have posters and a Twitter feed and a Facebook page telling me it is so against what the President of the United States stands for/believes/is/is doing that it is stocking only books devoted to those writers who oppose him too, and what is more, will give them away free. Needless to say, the opposite is also true. You will not find Donald Trump’s autobiography here, or anything by those authors known to support/admire/have voted for him."
Hill argued that the bookshop's decision not to stock writers who support Trump or any of Trump's own titles is a form of censorship that she believes that bookshops – as well as libraries – should “never indulge in”.
“Free thought, free belief, freedom of expression — those are among the most important values of the free world in which democracy holds sway. I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to my death your right to say it", she said.
She added: “What is more, if I am a bookseller I will not agree with many of the views expressed by some of the authors whose books I stock, but if they are legal and legally published, I will not censor those books in terms of not putting them on my shelves. I will not ban — however much you fudge the word, that is what it is — any book because I disagree with its author’s stance on anything at all. I will not discourage my customers from buying such books. If they are not on my shelf I will not refuse to order them.
"And, above all, I am in business, and business should be neutral, for fear of offending. So I will not publicly express my political or religious views, in my shops, to my customers or on social media. I will not let my bias, whatever that bias is, interfere with my customers’ right to browse and buy whatever they wish. I may only do that if I advertise myself as ‘The Left-Wing Bookshop’. The Anti-Republican Party Bookshop. Whatever.”
She continued: “Moreover, Trump is not our President or our Prime Minister, he is America’s. He was elected. Many do not like the fact, but that is democracy. A precious right.”
Hill’s forthcoming novel From the Heart will be published in March 2017 by Chatto & Windus.
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