A pride bookmark inside of a yellow book

San Francisco Woman Fights Book Bans by Shipping LGBTQ+ Books to Conservative States

One San Francisco woman has found a unique way to fight book bans. Operating out of the small bookstore Fabulosa Books, Becka Robbins has been sending LGBTQ+ books to states with limited access to such books due to book-banning laws.

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Book banning has been on the rise across the nation ever since conservative politicians and parents turned their culture-war sights on books. While many books have faced challenges and bans, LGBTQ+ books are the most frequently targeted. Although conservatives claim that they’re removing “obscene” or “sexually explicit” books from schools, the real purpose behind the movement has always been to censor any book that doesn’t align with the right-wing agenda. Hence, books about women’s issues, abuse awareness, Black history, and LGBTQ+ topics are most frequently being pulled from school libraries and even from public libraries. Many states have begun passing legislation that makes it easier to pull books from schools by the hundreds or even to instigate statewide book bans.

Now that we’re several years into the unprecedented rise of the book-banning movement, states are beginning to feel the effects. In conservative states like Texas, Florida, and Alabama, many advocacy groups and schools are unable to find or secure books that tackle sexuality, gender identity, and LGBTQ+ history. Robbins recognized the issue and set about ensuring that these groups could get the books they needed despite book-banning legislation.

Becka Robbins starts “Books Not Bans” initiative

Becka Robbins operates out of Fabulosa Books in Castro District, San Francisco, which has gained recognition as one of the first gay neighborhoods in the United States. Last May, Robbins began questioning how she could help get LGBTQ+ books into the hands of people who need them. Soon, she started her Books not Bans effort and began raising money to purchase LGBTQ+ books and ship them across the country. It wasn’t long before she found her first recipients for LGBTQ+ book donations.

So far, she has sent 740 books to various groups across the United States. Some of her recipients include a Pride center in Texas, an LGBTQ-friendly high school in Alabama, and the Rose Dynasty Center in Lakeland, Florida. There’s also evidence that the places receiving the donated books are planning their own efforts to combat book banning, as Rose Dynasty Center’s founder, Jason DeShazo, expressed interest in starting a library of banned books.

Robbins recognizes the dangers of book banning, pointing out that it’s an “attempt at erasure,” to erase history and even to erase entire communities of people. Meanwhile, she understands the importance of making all books widely available to readers, explaining, “Fiction teaches us how to dream. It teaches us how to connect with people who are not like ourselves, it teaches us how to listen and emphasize.”

Fabulosa Books has plans to continue expanding its efforts, revealing on its website that it is working in coordination with two other bookstores to reach more people. It also reveals that every box of LGBTQ+ books that has been sent out has been almost entirely funded by donations from its customers. Robbins noted that customers are always enthusiastic to contribute to the initiative, even writing notes of encouragement and support to include inside the book boxes. Robbins’ and Fabulosa Books’ initiative, as well as the overwhelmingly positive response it has received, is quite remarkable and raises hope for schools and groups in book-banning states by demonstrating to them that they have allies across the country who will help them get the books they need.

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.