In honor of Banned Books Week, PEN America’s Arizona Chapter has assembled thought leaders to discuss the torrent of book bans overtaking schools and libraries nationwide, and what can be done to stop this epidemic.
This event is part of Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference at Arizona State University (ASU). This conference features nationally recognized writers presenting classes, workshops, panels, and talks on literary craft, technique, and other topics related to creative writing, art, and practice.
Panel moderator Kyle Patton is a writer, photographer, long-time managing editor of two national medical magazines, and forum director for the Arizona Authors Association. He’s also been a monthly contributor to The Arizona Republic and USA Today. Kyle is currently editing novels and working on his own.
Ed McKennon has served as an academic librarian for over 20 years, currently in the Maricopa County Community College network. Starting two decades ago, he organized annual Banned Books Week activities for Amnesty International alongside library faculty and staff from Arizona State University and Glendale Community College and served on Amnesty International committees. Ed has presented the relationship between Banned Books Week library campaigns and international human rights action via several academic poster sessions and is particularly interested in how a human-rights framework can be used to address censorship controversies.
Darrell Hill is policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. His work includes legislative advocacy in the areas of abortion, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, criminal justice reform, and education equity. As policy director, he has worked to pass legislation prohibiting the suspension and expulsion of students for minor disciplinary infractions, and legislation to address healthcare inequity during the pandemic. Hill has also served as an ACLU staff attorney and litigated cases concerning voting rights, Arizona’s Free Exercise of Religion Act, public records law, and the First Amendment.
Michelle Beaver is the founder of PEN America’s Arizona Chapter. Through her work with PEN, Michelle organizes events and campaigns that promote human rights, free expression, literature, and that fight book banning. She’s an author, editor, journalist, and 20-year weekly social-justice volunteer. She serves as a national magazine editor and teaching artist at Arizona State University’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. Michelle’s passion for free expression started at age 15 when she led a statewide battle against censorship of high-school journalists, efforts that included drafting and presenting Senate Bill 1282 with an Arizona Senator.
Michelle Gohr is a youth services librarian at Prescott Valley Public Library. Gohr has also served as a first-year-experience librarian with Arizona State University, where they taught information literacy and provided research assistance to students and faculty in women and gender studies, social justice/human rights, etc. Gohr is also a volunteer librarian for the Amnesty International USA Banned Books Week Working Group. Their research focuses on young adult literacy, censorship, and critical pedagogies.
Arizona State Senator Christine Marsh is a staunch advocate for education and continues to speak against and vote against book banning in schools. She taught high-school English for 25 years, now teaches middle school, and in 2016 was named Arizona Teacher of the Year. State Senator Marsh serves on the Senate Education Committee and the Transportation and Technology Committee. In her first term, she sponsored a bill to legalize fentanyl testing strips after the tragic death of her son from a fentanyl overdose. She’s a proud supporter of public schools, where she sent both her sons and her six foster children.