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The CNC produces journalism on a variety of topics in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties for about a dozen media partners including newspapers, radio and television stations and magazines.

A Sarasota book seller relishes in dealing in banned titles

Woman at a bookstore standing next to a sign: This bookstore kills Fascists
Jim DeLa
/
Community News Collaborative
Tiffany Razzano organizes books at her kiosk inside The Bazaar at Apricot & Lime in Sarasota. Her shop specialized in selling books that have been banned by communities or school districts.

St. Petersburg woman sets up shop in Sarasota with a selection of “anything that they don't want you to read in school."

In the corner of an artist's co-op near downtown Sarasota, there's a small, inviting kiosk with a few bookshelves, a red velvet couch and a T-shirts-for-sale rack.

And then, the name of Tiffany Razzano's business reaches out and slaps you: This Bookstore Kills Fascists.

Razzano, who lives in St. Petersburg, is a New York transplant with a passion for books and performance art. She says she's annoyed with what she calls "horrible, horrible legislation" coming out of Tallahassee.

For the last 15 years, Razzano has been holding events at book fairs across Florida, hosting literary-themed drag and burlesque shows, "murder mysteries, immersive theater stuff around Halloween," she said.

"This bookstore project kind of grew out of that and just quite simply out of sheer annoyance at the state of, I'd say the state of the world, and let's just say primarily the state of Florida," Razzano said.

Many of the books on her shelves have been banned in libraries and schools across the United States. Titles on her shelf one afternoon included “Pageboy,” a memoir by actor Elliot Page; "Push" by Sapphire, a novel about a girl dealing with sexual abuse; and “So You Want To be a Lesbian,“ by Sydney Pokorny and Liz Tracey.

This new store, at The Bazaar at Apricot & Lime on Lime Avenue, is the next step in her educational crusade.

Her shop’s name is her take on a slogan made famous by Woody Guthrie in the 1940s and now, like then, was designed to get people's attention. "I thought it would be kind of a funny way to get people thinking about what is happening here."

The folk singer often appeared on stage with “This Machine Kills Fascists” written on his guitar.

Razzano said her store is a commentary on how art and books are a form of protest and expression.

"We're feminist, anti-racist type folks, really just focusing ... on diverse voices and literature and getting those stories out there to people, particularly those that have been taken out of school and libraries, which we've seen way too much of in schools over the past year or two."

Nationwide trends

The American Library Association recently released data documenting 1,269 demands to restrict library books and resources in 2022, the highest number since ALA began compiling data in more than 20 years ago.

Pen America, a community of writers, publishers and devoted readers and supporters, released a report noting a record 2,571 titles were targeted for censorship, a 38% increase from the 1,858 unique titles targeted for censorship in 2021.

Of those titles, the majority were written by or about members of the LGBTQIA+ community and people of color. Bans are increasingly affecting a wider swath of titles, including those that portray violence and abuse (44%), discuss topics of health and well-being (38%), and cover death and grief (30%).

Instances of book bans are most prevalent in Texas, Florida, Missouri, Utah and South Carolina, the data show.

Florida has been in the thick of the debate over school curriculum and what's on library shelves.

House Bill 1069, which took effect July 1, includes requirements for specific terminology and instruction in health and sex ed in schools. It forbids classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity to prekindergarten through grade 8.

The bill makes it easier for parents to limit student access to materials they deem objectionable. The bill requires the suspension of materials alleged to contain pornography or obscene depictions of sexual conduct, as identified in current law, pending a review.

However, critics of the bill say many of the books affected include titles needed to take the College Board’s Advanced Placement literature exam and dual-enrollment classes.

Pen America has joined with parents and students from Escambia County to file a federal lawsuit challenging this law that removes and restricts books from school libraries.

"PEN America pushes back against the banning of books and the intolerance, exclusion, and censorship that undergird it," its website says.

Continuing the conversation

Razzano says she's still looking for titles to include in her store. "Anything that they don't want you to read in school, we'd be very happy to have it here," she said.

She says she hopes the store sparks conversations beyond books.

"There's so many pieces of legislation that touched on many different things, from drag to trans rights and medical access to abortion, access to the schools. This is just one of many issues, and I honestly think it was intended to divide people who would care about those things, because I think we all care about all of those things."

Jim DeLa is a reporter for the Community News Collaborative. You can reach him at jdela@cncfl.org.

Strike up the banned

On the Suncoast, local school districts have confirmed the following books have been removed, either in response to complaints or recent legislation:

Books banned or restricted in Manatee County:

  • "I am Jazz" by Jazz Jennings
  • "When Aiden Became a Brother" by Kyle Lukoff
  • "Red Hood" by Elana Arnold
  • "Tricks" by Ellen Hopkins
  • "Push" by Sapphire
  • "L8r, g8r" by Lauren Myracle
  • "Me and Earl and the Dying Girl" by Jessie Andrews
  • "Ready or Not" by Meg Cabot
  • “Lily and Dunkin” by Donna Gephart
  • "Sold" by Patricia McCormick
  • "The Talk" by Alicia D. Williams
  • "What on Earth is a Pangolin" by Edward Ricciuti
  • "The 57 Bus" by Dashka Slater
  • "The Art of Junji Ito: Twisted Visions" by Junji Ito
  • "My Hero Academia Origin: Volume 5" by Kohei Horikoshi
  • “Friends Forever” by Shannon Hale

Books banned or restricted in Sarasota County:

  • “Choke” by Chuck Palahniuk
  • “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison
  • “Looking for Alaska” by John Green
  • “Stamped” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kend